Family First’s third warning on kids’ screen time

Organisation takes a swipe at school’s policy of requiring pupils to bring their own computers to the classroom

If at Family First you don’t succeed, try, try again. The organisation has made its third attempt to raise awareness of excessive screen viewing by New Zealand children.

This time it has also taken a swipe at school’s policy of requiring pupils to bring their own computers to the classroom, saying it is putting families under increasing financial pressure.

Family First national director, Bob McCoskrie, said: “Although screen technology may be a beneficial aspect of modern life, the Ministry of Education is turning a blind eye to growing concern from health and development experts about the disproportionate use in many families’ lives, particularly the young in New Zealand.

“Parents, children and teachers remain unaware of the medical and developmental risks and the position of medical bodies on discretionary screen time. And the majority of children and adolescents in New Zealand, including toddlers, continue to significantly exceed medical guidelines."

He added: "Yet the ages at which children start viewing screens and the number of hours watched per day is increasingly linked to negative physiological changes, medical conditions and development outcomes including significant sleep disturbances, attention problems and impulsiveness, and children are more susceptible to developing a long-term problematic dependency on technology."

Family First says its concerns are based on the fact that it was told by the Ministry of Health in 2014 that it provided guidelines only for screen time use outside of school time - (a maximum of two hours per day for 5-18 year olds) - and no guidelines at all for under fives.

Family First says the ministry told it: “It is up to individual schools to decide the extent to which they will use digital technology to support teaching and learning. The Ministry has not undertaken specific research on appropriate amounts of daily screen time for young people."

This is the third time Family First has issued a warning about the detrimental effects of screen time, the first being in February 2015 when at announced release of a commissioned report in support of its arguments, We Need To Talk - Screen time in NZ, Media Use: An Emerging factor in child and adolescent health by biologist / psychologist Dr Aric Sigman.

It issued a second statement in October 2016 warning of the dangers of excessive screen time for children and again citing its 2015 report.

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