Sunday 8 December 2019

Children spend twice the recommended daily limit at screens

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Paul O'Donoghue

Irish children are watching more than four hours of TV and video content per day on average, according to a new study.

The survey of about 300 adults with children aged 14 and under was conducted by Core Media and Ignite Research in November. It found that children aged 14 and under watched an average of 122 minutes of traditional TV per day in Ireland in 2015. However, they were also topping up their daily viewing with an additional two hours of video online via laptops, tablets and smartphones.

This brought their combined total to over four hours a day. According to a recent report by Early Childhood Ireland, the maximum leisure screen time for children over the age of two should be no more than two hours a day.

Although there are several studies showing how much television Irish children consume, this is usually focused exclusively on traditional television consumption. The amount of traditional television consumed by children actually marks a slight decline on the previous year. TV ratings body Television Audience Measurement Ireland found in 2014 that Irish children watched about 150 minutes of TV a day.

However, the inclusion of online viewing means that Irish children are spending more time than previously estimated watching video content.

This further increases at weekends, when children's daily TV and video viewing time jumps to five and-a-half hours.

The survey also shows that 39pc of parents are concerned that their children watch too much TV and video content while just over half would prefer if their children watched less TV and video content. Parents are less enthusiastic about their children watching content online rather than traditional TV content, with just 17pc of parents preferring their children to watch video online.

Nick Fletcher, broadcast director at Core Media, said it has been known "for some time" that television viewing for children exceeds the recommended amount.

He said: "[However], what we didn't know until now is the combined volume of TV and online content that Irish kids are consuming on a daily basis - a total of four hours viewing per day is a hugely worrying statistic."

He added: "One key point that parents made was that online video was suitable as long as it was supervised.

"However, with the high consumption figures we are seeing it is going to be very difficult for parents to monitor everything their children watch online.

This raises the question about whether online publishers should be doing more themselves to monitor children's ability to find inappropriate content.''

Across all age groups YouTube is the most popular platform for viewing online content, with 80pc of parents ranking it the most popular site for their children. Parents had significant concerns about the site however, with 32pc saying YouTube wasn't suitable for their children and a further 42pc saying YouTube's content was too commercial.

The highest-rated show of the year in 2015 for children was The Late Late Toy Show with 390,000 children - a rating of 53.8pc - tuning in.

The research also highlighted gender differences in viewing habits among children. Boys preferred cartoon-based programmes such as 'Scooby Doo' while girls tended to favour live action shows such as 'The Next Step'.

Irish Independent

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