Managing screen time in children is harder for families with multiple children study finds

Managing screen time in children is harder for families with multiple children study finds

by Freya Lucas

March 09, 2022

Families with more than one child in the home are struggling to keep their children’s screen time within acceptable limits and stick with the national guidelines, a study from the University of Queensland has found. 


More than half of the families who participated in the study kept to the guidelines when their children were in the same age-based screen time category, but when the children in the study were in different aged-based screen time categories less than a quarter were able to adhere to the recommendations. 

Toddlers were often matching the screen time of their older siblings, author Associate Professor Leigh Tooth noted, and in a sub-sample of children aged two to four years who had siblings in different aged-based screen time categories, many exceeded guidelines by up to 92 per cent.

Age-based guidelines

In Australia, and other countries, screen time guidelines are based on age.


The current recommendations are no screen time for children younger than two years of age, one hour per day for those aged between two and four years, and two hours per day for children between five and 12 years of age.


Dr Tooth said these guidelines failed to account for the reality of parenting multiple children of different ages.


“We would like to see current screen time guidelines modified to accommodate families with multiple children and more policies and resources with practical tips and strategies for parents,” she said.


“While many guidelines now focus on quality over quantity, such as co-viewing and enriching content, difficulties remain for families with several children,” she said.


Data used in this study was taken from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) and Mothers and their Children’s Health (MatCH) sub-study involving families with three children under 13 years old. The paper is published in Jama Paediatrics and can be found here