Parents defy experts on television and computers
December 02, 2008 12:00am
AUSSIE kids as young as three are tech-savvy tots, turning on the TV themselves and watching more than nine hours a week, a study has found.
And one-third of kids regularly watch TV during meals, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children has found.
The landmark survey of 10,000 children from across the country charts the changing face of Australian families, with more kids in child care, a high percentage of mothers working, and high computer use among primary school kids.
The survey shows one in three children under the age of one is in centre-based care or looked after by grandparents, usually because their parents are going to work. By the time kids are two, 65 per cent are in some form of child care.
Against the advice of many experts, one in nine kids aged three to four do not go to any type of child care or preschool.
The results also show the importance of technology in children's lives. One in 10 parents are ignoring the advice of experts and allowing seven-year-olds to have a computer in their bedroom.
The children are using their computers for homework, but also to watch DVDs and play games.
The results come as more than half of mothers with kids under four are now in paid employment -- this rises to 80 per cent for mothers of seven and eight-year-olds.
Although most mums surveyed said they liked their work, 40 per cent said they missed out on home or family activities as a result.
Diana Smart, general manager of research for the Australian Institute of Family Studies, said more than 9 1/2 hours a week of TV time for three to four-year-olds was considered by many experts as a high level of viewing.
The study found, however, many parents were not worried and only a quarter of parents felt their children should watch less television.
"All of this points to the importance of parental management and monitoring of their children's television watching," she said.
"We know from recent research undertaken with the Smith Family that high levels of television watching among preschool-age children is one of the risk factors in children being less ready for school."
The results come as some experts, such as Dr Aric Sigman, of the British Psychological Society, have called for no child under three to watch TV.
But Jane Roberts, president of Young Media Australia, said there was nothing wrong with young children watching small amounts of quality age-appropriate TV.
"But you have to ask what children this age are missing out on while they are watching TV," she said.
The executive director of the Victorian-based Parenting Research Centre, Warren Cann, said TV watching could cramp other forms of play and long hours of viewing could lead to inactivity and obesity.
"But it can be useful for parents as well -- it's about finding the right balance," he said.