Regulations Are Urgently Needed – Children Are Spending a Third of Their After-School Time on Screens

Kids Screentime Tablets

Researchers have found that children spend a significant amount of their after-school hours on screens, with some harmful effects on their health and wellbeing. They are urging for immediate regulations to safeguard children in the unregulated online domain, especially given the rise in exposure to harmful content and cyberbullying.

Researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, emphasize the pressing need for regulations to shield children from potential dangers in the unmonitored digital realm.

This plea accompanies their newly released study in the New Zealand Medical Journal, which delves into the post-school routines of 12-year-olds. The findings reveal that these children allocate about one-third of their post-school hours to screen time, with the figure rising to over half after 8 pm.

Senior researcher Dr. Moira Smith from the University’s Department of Public Health says this is considerably more than the current guidelines, which recommend less than two hours of screen time per day (outside school time) for school-aged children and adolescents.

Moira Smith

Moira Smith. Credit: University of Otago

The results are from the innovative Kids’Cam project, with the 108 children involved wearing cameras that captured images every seven seconds, offering a unique insight into their everyday lives in 2014 and 2015.

Children were mostly playing games and watching programs. Ten percent of the time the children were using more than one screen.

Screen use harms children’s health and well-being.

“It is associated with obesity, poor mental well-being, poor sleep and mental functioning, and lack of physical activity,” Dr Smith says. “It also affects children’s ability to concentrate and regulate their behavior and emotions.”

Screen use is now a regular part of children’s everyday lives and is likely to have increased since the Kids’Cam data was collected.

“Screen use rose rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and children in 2023 are frequently spending time online, particularly on smartphones. According to the latest media use survey, YouTube and Netflix are the most popular websites for watching programs, with one in three children under 14 using social media, most commonly TikTok, which is rated R13.”

She says children are being exposed to ads for vaping, alcohol, gambling, and junk food, and experiencing sexism, racism, and bullying while online.

“Cyberbullying is particularly high among children in Aotearoa, with one in four parents reporting their child has been subjected to bullying while online.”

Dr. Smith says current New Zealand legislation is outdated and fails to adequately deal with the online world children are being exposed to.

“While screen use has many benefits, children need to be protected from harm in this largely unregulated space.”

She says the Government is to be applauded for proposing more regulation of social media in its recent consultation document from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), which notes concern about children accessing inappropriate content while online.

The Otago researchers are currently studying the online worlds of children in Aotearoa using screen capture technology, with the results expected to be published soon.

Reference: “Watching the watchers: assessing the nature and extent of children’s screen time using wearable cameras” by Belinda M Lowe, Moira Smith, Richard Jaine, James Stanley, Ryan Gage and Louise Signal, 7 July 2023, New Zealand Medical Journal.

8 Comments on "Regulations Are Urgently Needed – Children Are Spending a Third of Their After-School Time on Screens"

  1. You know, a lot of kids who had their own computers (given or bought) back in the early 80s also spent crazy hours in front of the screen. Shane that there weren’t any decent or indepth studies about screen time back then.

    And yes, I was online back then. Tape recorder, microphone, and phone receiver = 150 baud modem. Do t forget to whistle just right.

  2. Don’t”

  3. Stay…….out of our private lives with your suggested regulations.

  4. Seriously? We need regulations against people making regulations on other peoples lives. Go manage your own family!

  5. well people in America spend more time online than europeans by 2-3x because we made it impossible to go outside without a car, and obviously no child drives a car around. So yeah when you destroy the outside and make it impossible for a child to go out and have fun, then obviously they will just go online since craving human interaction… is normal and its impossible for them to do that in a suburb.


  7. Matthew from Silicon Valiey | August 30, 2023 at 5:18 am | Reply

    Im old enough to remember the horrors and negative impact Television had on my generation. I have no idea how we survived it….

    After TV I was horrifically exposed to the deadly onslaught of computer and console games. The survival rate for my generation was low.

    Then came the worst of all, internet and porn!

    All this negative influence caused my life to spiral out of control and I found myself engaging in computer forensics for many years, wasting my adult life, selling out vast sums of wealth.

    What a naive fool I was, how low I sank in society. I wish I had spent my life in prison doing something productive like making license plates, instead I choose to serve the evil skurge that is technology. My only wish is that future generations forgive me for my madness.

  8. While I agree that screen time should be regulated, it should be regulated by PARENTS, not GOVERNMENT!

    This should be titled “Parents who give a sh*t and actually spend time with their children urgently needed”.

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