The study was conduced on nearly 1000 boys between the age of 10 to 13. Alarmingly, the study found that these boys on an average spend four hours watching TV or playing video games, which is twice greater than the recommended Australian health guidelines. The study which is published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health further highlights that children lose 10 minutes of sleep for every hour they spend in front of the television.
Children who watch TV or indulge in video games are more likely to be academically weak, aggressive and face problems with body image and social networks. According to the Australian and American guidelines, the safe level of television viewing is restricted to 2 hours per day. As little as 10% of those surveyed were found to satisfy the criteria.
The researchers pointed out to the seductive and sophisticated screen technology as the culprit. Although girls were found to watch less TV and play less video game compared to boys of their age, they were more likely to use the Internet and do homework.
'There are more and more types of screens that are around at the moment, for example, DVDs in cars and portable game consoles. There are simply more and more opportunities for kids to be sitting in front of a screen. One that's come to our attention is texting. We didn't count that in our screen time but we're finding more and more kids who spend an hour a day texting,' remarked the author.
The presence or absence of a TV in the child's room, the general rules imposed by a higher member of the family regarding TV viewing, and if the TV is on at home regardless of whether anyone is watching were three major determinants that influenced screen time.
The results of the present study are consistent with another similar American study which confirmed that playing video games can increase children's heart rates, and burn fat as well. As children engaged in television are more likely to get glued to the seat for many hours, then show a decreased inclination towards physical activity, increasing the chances of obesity and problems with behavior.
'I was very alarmed and I'm particularly amazed by the 10 per cent of boys who watch almost seven hours of screen time each day, Those kids who get small amounts of sleep tend to be fatter and they suffer from a range of psycho-social problems, such as ADHD, so that's another major concern, as well,' said lead researcher Tim Olds, University of South Australia.
The author warns regarding the unhealthy trend and urges the parents be stringent with respect to television and video games. He also requested parents to take more responsibility and impose curfews between 3.30pm and 6pm on week days. Screen time can be restricted to a large extent by encouraging children to turn to their bed earlier.