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This content is taken from the University of Wollongong's online course, Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds A range of factors might influence young children screen time. We use the ecological model to help us understand these. Let’s start with individual or personal factors. Children who have a preference for watching TV or playing electronic games, rather than active play, who spend more time in quiet play, such as with toys or blocks, who spend more time playing active electronic games, who have a higher body weight relative to their height, or a higher body mass index, and children who come from a minority cultural background, tend to spend more time engaging with screens.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds At the social environment level, young children who receive limited encouragement to be active from their parents, whose mothers spend more time watching TV, whose parents lack the confidence to say no to them using electronic games, who have a home environment lacking in cognitive stimulation, which can include limited access to educational toys, or limited time spent reading with parents, and children whose mothers is suffering from depression, tend to spend more time using electronic media. In relation to young children screen time while at childcare, some evidence indicates that the following social environment factors might be important. Children who attend home based childcare, tend to spend more time engaging with electronic media, compared to children attending center based child care.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds And children who attend a child care where the staff have low levels of education and training, tend to spend more time engaging with screens, relative to child care centers where staff have high levels of education. Fewer studies have investigated the factors that might influence young children’s time spent sitting, or their total daily time in sedentary behavior. At the individual level, girls tend to spend more time sedentary compared to boys. And boys who spend more time engaging with electronic screens, tend to be more sedentary than those who don’t. At the social level, some research indicates that girls whose parents perceive that they have low athletic coordination, tend to be more sedentary.

Skip to 2 minutes and 33 seconds Whereas boys who have limited access to physical activity equipment in the home, tend to spend more time being sedentary, compared to boys with more equipment.

Influencing factors

Over the past two decades there has been a dramatic increase in the number and types of factors influencing a child’s activity, including their screen time. The ecological model can help us understand these multiple factors.

In Week 2, we were introduced to the ecological model developed by Sallis and Bauman (2012). We used this model to identify factors influencing a child’s physical activity. Similarly, it can be used to identify factors that contribute to the type and amount of screen time that young children engage with.

The ecological model Ecological model diagram (Click to expand)

In this video we consider a range of factors that influence screen based activities for young children.

Conversation starter

  • Share a personal/individual, social or environmental factor that you think is a big influence on the screen time of children in your community.

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This video is from the free online course:

Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living

University of Wollongong