Obesity, low physical motor skills linked with high screen time for 2-year-olds in NZ

Too much screen time at a young age can see children more likely to be obese and lower physical motor skills, a New Zealand study has found. 

The study, by researchers at Auckland University of Technology and the University of Auckland, analysed screen time data of 5000 children in New Zealand aged 24-54 months.

Children who spent over an hour a day at age two were more likely to be obese, have lower physical motor skills and visit the doctor more.

It also found hyperactivity problems were more likely at 4.5 years old.

On average, preschool children spent about 1.5 hours a day using screens at two years old, going up to two hours at age 3.75 years. 

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said the report provides "robust local data", as until now evidence from overseas was relied on. 

"Children have unprecedented access to screen-based devices – from smart phones to televisions and tablets," she said. 

"While some screen time can be beneficial for learning, that time needs to be balanced with regular physical activity and outside play, which we know are key to children’s development."

The study was funded by the Ministry of Social Development. 

Ministry of Health Guidelines are:

  • no sedentary screen time for children younger than two years
  • less than an hour each day for children aged between two and five years

laptop computer and smartphone