Media Release 28 June 2017
Family First NZ says that parents should be concerned about the amount of screentime that their children are going to be exposed to under the new Digital Technologies-Hangarau Matihiki curriculum, and is critical of government agencies for a lack of research and guidelines for families.
“Screen technology may be a beneficial aspect of modern life, but the Minister of Education needs to do some homework on the growing concerns from health and development experts about the disproportionate use of screentime in many families’ lives, particularly the young in New Zealand. A recent survey even highlighted the concerns of parents about screentime for children which the government and the Ministries of Health and Education appear to be ignoring,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Screen time needs to be treated as a personal health and well-being issue to be formally included in the health education curriculum and taught in the classroom from primary school. The Minister should read our report from 2015 which first sounded the warning bell.”
The 2015 report by Family First entitled “WE NEED TO TALK – Screen time in NZ, Media Use: An Emerging factor in child and adolescent health” by biologist / psychologist Dr Aric Sigman was originally commissioned by family group Family First NZ in response to the Ministry of Education telling Family First: “It is up to individual schools to decide the extent to which they will use digital technology to support teaching and learning”, and “The Ministry has not undertaken specific research on appropriate amounts of daily screen time for young people.”
Also, there were admissions to Family First from the Ministry of Health that they have only provided guidelines for screen time use outside of school time – (a maximum of two hours per day for 5-18 year olds) – and no guidelines at all for under 5’s or to the Ministry of Education or to ECE’s.
“Parents, children and teachers remain unaware of the medical and developmental risks and the position of medical bodies on discretionary screen time. And the majority of children and adolescents in New Zealand, including toddlers, continue to significantly exceed medical guidelines,” said the author of the Family First report.
“Yet the ages at which children start viewing screens and the number of hours watched per day is increasingly linked to negative physiological changes, medical conditions and development outcomes including significant sleep disturbances, attention problems and impulsiveness, and children are more susceptible to developing a long-term problematic dependency on technology.”
“The research is there – but it seems the Ministry of Education is turning a blind eye to it,” says Mr McCoskrie.