Excessive screen time, obesity main health concerns for children, study says

Child using ipad

Too much time in front of a screen, obesity, and a lack of physical activity have been identified by parents as the three biggest health concerns for Australian children and teenagers.

The Australian Child Health Poll, conducted by Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, found having an unhealthy diet and bullying were also considered by parents as in the top five children’s health issues.

The poll’s director, Dr Anthea Rhodes, said the top 10 concerns related to modern lifestyles, rather than traditional issues like allergies and accidents.

“When we’ve looked to the public and asked them to tell us what’s important, they’ve very clearly told us, it’s those issues relating to lifestyle, child welfare and also mental health that are the big problems in their eyes,” she said.

Top ten child health concerns:

  • Excessive screen time
  • Obesity
  • Not enough physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Bullying
  • Illegal drug use
  • Family domestic violence
  • Internet safety
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Suicide

“There’s lots of research that tells us about the flow-on effects of obesity in children and the economic effects of that when it persists into adulthood.”

Excessive screen time was picked out by 60 per cent of 2,000 respondents, as the number one health issue of concern.

More than 50 per cent said they considered sedentary lifestyle and diet a problem. A similar number also indentified illegal drugs, and family domestic violence a concern.

Ms Rhodes said everyone had a role in fixing it.

“The big problems, as identified by the Australian public, are very much non-traditional health issues and it’s really not clear whose responsibility they are.

“Is it healthcare providers? Is it government and policy makers? Or is it the responsibility of parents themselves?

“It’s up to people around the nation to sit up and listen and make a difference where they can.”