When the bell rings on Friday afternoon parents are exhausted, so managing screen time on the weekends can become a struggle and a source of conflict in the family. To kids, weekends are just ‘mini holidays’, so why should device rules apply?
The Australian Child Health Poll  into managing screen time in Australian homes found that 67% of primary age children and 37% of pre-schoolers own their own screen-based device. That may explain why 43% of kids regularly use devices at bedtime and the 6-12 age group spends, on average 32 hours per week on screens.
The director of the Australian child health poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes said one of the most significant findings, that directly affected children’s health, was the impact of screen use at bedtime on sleep.
While acknowledging the demands of the modern lifestyle of parents, the study found that 85% of parents of young children say that they use screens to occupy their kids so that they can get things done. At the same time, many families are experiencing conflict over screen use and the lack of physical activity and excessive use are concerning many parents.
The poll also revealed a strong relationship between parents screen use and that of their children, with parents who have high levels of screen use more likely to have a child with similar levels of use. Three-quarters of parents of children under 6 also said they do not put time limits on screen use and most parents are trying to limit screen use but are unsure how to do this effectively.
According to Prof. Sonia Livingstone, ‘In the digital age, parents find limiting screen time impossible because they are exhausted and screens are everywhere with the added issue that limiting screen time causes family conflict and undermines digital media learning.’
Current Australian guidelines for screen use were last updated in 2014 and since then there has been widespread use of mobile screen devices for children across the age spectrum. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the originator of the famous 2×2 rules (no screens under 2 years, no more than 2 hours/day thereafter), has finally conceded that in the digital age, such advice is impossible to follow.
No wonder parents are confused.
When talking about excessive screen time, it’s important to remember that screen activities vary widely. Despite what may have been said in the past, the majority of modern research suggests that it’s the quality of a young person’s screen time which matters most, not the quantity.