While parents have been complaining about their children spending too many hours in front of the television for decades, mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops mean that making sure your kids get enough exercise and sleep is a bigger challenge than ever.
1. Hong Kong children spend more time on digital devices than peers
Based on the study1 conducted by the Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, close to 75 per cent of surveyed children in Hong Kong spent more than two hours on digital devices, compared with 20.8 per cent in the United States and 47.4 per cent in Beijing. Children in Hong Kong spent most of their screen time on video gaming (36.9 per cent), followed by television viewing (36.2 per cent), studying (20.4 per cent), and web browsing (6.5 per cent).
2. More time for digital screens, less time for exercises
The study also showed that pre-schoolers who spent more time on television viewing and video gaming at age 5 were more likely to be overweight, have behavioural problems including emotional problems and hyperactivity as well as poor academic performance at age 9.
Here are the recommendations of sedentary and screen-time activity from the Department of Health in Hong Kong2:
- Children under 2: should avoid screen time as far as possible.
- Children between 2 and 6: No more than 2 hours of screen time per day. Avoid any sedentary activity which lasts over one hour.
If these recommendations seem a far cry from your kids’ reality, here are practical tips to help you deal with the situation:
- Keep track of the time they spend online.
- Don’t allow televisions or computer in your children’s room.
- Don’t take screen time as a reward or punishment.
You can find out more from the Department of Health: http://www.startsmart.gov.hk/files/pdf/GLs_parent_Eng_website.pdf
Replacing screen-time with physical activity or rest is an alternative. Preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 6 should get at least 180 minutes of physical movement daily through various activities3. Kids are more active outdoors, so encourage them to get outside. Even if it is cold, just make sure they are warmly dressed and play in a safe area. There are many fun things kids can do outside regardless of the weather.
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