'It's hitting them young' - too much screen time risks exposing children to harmful advertising, expert warns

Children that spend too much time engaging with digital screens risk being exposed to harmful advertising, an expert warns.

Wiremu Manaia, a senior lecturer in technology at Manukau Institute of Technology told TVNZ1's Breakfast his biggest concern is "screen time technology addiction" and the impact online advertising has on children.

Examples of harmful advertising are messages about fast food, gambling and tobacco and alcohol.

"They’re on screens before they go to school, they’re on screens at school and they’re on screens when they get home from school ... they’re on screens from 10-12 hours a day."

"The advertising is a ploy ... it's attracting them into areas that we probably shouldn’t be exposing our children to."

Mr Manaia says he's concerned many parents aren't aware of it of what their children are being exposed to on digital devices.

"We don't know exactly what they're seeing ... it's hitting them and it's hitting them young."

His advice to parents is to do some education and research and find out what they're watching.

"Sit your children down and talk to them about what they're actually looking at.

"Regulate it [screen time] to some degree and get them off their screens as much as possible."

He advises parents to start a conversation with their children and to get them involved in other interactions and activities that limits their amount of screen time.

Mr Manaia says that it is important not to completely ban screen time.

"It doesn't all have a bad impact, it's a good education tool."

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MIT researcher Wiremu Manaia says he’s concerned that most parents aren’t aware of what their children are watching. Source: Breakfast