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Children spend too much time using gadgets: NTNU

WRONG FOCUS? Elementary-school students have little free time, but exercise significantly less than children in the US or what the WHO recommends, a study found.

First-year elementary-school students in Taiwan spend up to three hours per day using mobile electronics, and less than five hours per week exercising, a National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) study found.

Students spend an average of one hour and 25 minutes per day using smartphones and tablets on weekdays, and three hours and six minutes on weekends and holidays, the university said yesterday.

The study also found that in some households where parents did not set limits on the use of electronics, children spent nearly four hours per day over weekends and holidays using the devices, it said.

Meanwhile, the students on average spend only four hours and 50 minutes per week exercising, the university said, adding that first-year elementary-school students in the US spend at least seven hours per week exercising.

The study, which aimed to better understand developmental issues in children, was initiated by Chang Chien-ju (張鑑如), a professor in the university’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Researchers analyzed information collected nationwide between March 2016 and this month on 6,590 children aged three months at the start of the study, and 2,164 children aged three years at the start of the study.

It found that more than half of elementary-school students attend cram schools and other programs, and spend only two to three hours at home before bed time.

Of that time, half is on average spent using mobile electronics, Chang said, adding that only 15 percent were prohibited from watching TV or using electronics after returning home, she said.

The students typically use mobile devices to watch cartoons, rather than to play video games as older students do, she said.

“Ninety-seven percent of parents who allow electronics have rules about how long they can be used, and that their children, for example, must complete their homework before using them,” she said.

The WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children’s screen time not exceed one hour and 30 minutes per day, she said.

Exercise is also important for a child’s development, Chang said, adding that Taiwanese children generally do not engage in exercise outside of physical education classes they attend weekly at school.

Sun, Feb 21, 2021 By Rachel Lin and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writer