Too much screen time the biggest health concern parents have for their kids

Too much time spent in front of screens has emerged as a major concern for the health of Australian children and teens, with one in five families rating it as a big problem in their own home.

The findings are from the first Australian Child Health Poll, which reveals the top 10 child health problems as reported by the Australian public.

Almost 60 per cent of Australians say excessive screen time is the number one health problem for youngsters.

Obesity, not enough physical activity and an unhealthy diet were the next concerns, showing the top four problems go hand-in-hand.

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Director of the poll, Dr Anthea Rhodes, says modern day health problems such as those identified in the top 10 are often easier to ignore than address.

“These issues have become so engrained in our lives that they’re almost perceived as unsolvable problems,” she says.

“But we now know that the community considers them to be the biggest health problems for children and teenagers today.”

The top ten child health problems according to the Australian public are:

1. Excessive screen time
2. Obesity
3. Not enough physical activity
4. Unhealthy diet
5. Bullying
6. Illegal drug use
7. Family and domestic violence
8. Internet safety
9. Child abuse and neglect
10. Suicide

Some of the key findings show that excessive screen time is identified as a big problem by parents of very young children and the number of parents who see it as a big problem increases as their children grow up.

More than one in 10 parents of preschool age children and more than a quarter of parents of teenagers say that excessive screen time is a big health problem for their kids.

But 58 per cent of adults from lower-income households (less than $1000 per week) identified illegal drug use as a big problem for Australian teenagers, putting it at the top of the list of concerns alongside excessive screen time for this group.

child eating junk food health donut

Parents rate obesity more frequently as a big problem for children in the community than for their own children. While 48 per cent of parents rate obesity as a big problem for all, only 8 per cent rate it as a big problem for their own children.

One in 10 parents are worried about dental issues.

Other issues ranking in the top 10 include mental health concerns such as bullying and suicide; and issues relating to child safety – family violence, internet safety, child abuse and illegal drug use.

Every three months the Royal Children’s Hospital Australian Child Health Poll will canvass 2000 Australian households representative of the population and use that data to shed new light on issues and inform policy and research.

Natalie Esler

Natalie is a Melbourne journalist and editor and loves her city's art, culture and restaurant offerings as much as a day at the footy with hot chips. Similarly, her toddler daughter spends equal amounts of time playing with toy trucks and trains as she does dolls and tea sets. Avid travellers, Natalie and her husband are always planning their next family adventure.

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