Skip main navigation

What is screen time?

Screen time includes all time children engage with electronic media.
6.2
In the 1970s, the average age that children began watching television, was four years. Today, it is five months. In the early 1980s, television was the only form of electronic media, or screen time, available to young children. Fast forward more than three decades, and children now have access to a suite of electronic screens, sometimes using more than one at once, media multitasking. Screen time includes all time children engage with electronic media. Although, television viewing is still the primary form of screen time for young children, mobile technologies now allow television programs to be viewed on many devices beyond the TV, including computers, electronic tablets, mobile phones, and even on screens in cars.
51.3
Likewise, although, electronic games on computers and console systems have been available to children for more than 20 years, this type of screen time has not typically been very common for young children. More recent advances in mobile, touchscreen technologies, which are ensured for young children to use, has led to the development of dedicated devices and electronic games and applications targeted specifically at young children. Although, young children may engage with electronic media for different reasons, including for educational purposes, at home, or child care, or to communicate with family or friends, the vast majority of children screen time can be classified as media used for entertainment.
94
This includes occasions which children need to be occupied so that parents, or adult caregivers, can attend to other tasks, to keep children calm or quiet, or to assist children going to sleep. Simply put, young children of the 21st century, particularly those living in developed countries, have unprecedented access to electronic media, most of which occurs for entertainment. In this module, we’ll explore how young children screen time can influence their weight, and ways to assist children to engage in healthy screen time.
Young children of the 21st century have unprecedented access to electronic media and spend more time with screens than any other time in history. They are also introduced to screens at a much younger age.
“In the 1970s, the average age that children began watching television was 4 years; today, it is 5 months.” (Dr Dylan Cliff, University of Wollongong)
“Recent advances in mobile touch screen technologies, which are intuitive for young children to use, have led to the development of dedicated devices and electronic games and apps targeted at young children.” (Dr Dylan Cliff, University of Wollongong)

Conversation starter

  • How have screen based activities for children in your country changed over the course of your lifetime?
This article is from the free online

Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education