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Joyce Teo
Friday, Aug 8, 2014

Watch how much screen time junior gets

The Straits Times | Joyce Teo | Friday, Aug 8, 2014

Too much, too soon: Early and heavy screen-time exposure can result in a higher rate of attention deficit when a child is of school-going age.

Five-year-old Kristy gets to watch TV for an hour or so during lunchtime and for about two hours during dinner.

"After dinner, her 'reward' is at least 11/2 hours on an Apple iPad before she washes up for bed. Then, we take her through some educational apps or games before she sleeps," said her mother, D. Lee, 39, who holds an office job.

"It is effective as a babysitting tool, as long as we set the rules. We will warn her before we take back the iPad. She knows that if she doesn't cooperate, it will be confiscated for a couple of days."

Mrs Lee said she first allowed Kristy to play with the tablet when she was around two, but the time spent on it was a lot shorter then.

"It's really a case of bo pian (Hokkien for no choice) now, as I have a three-month-old baby. Otherwise, I will go mad. She'll keep bugging me and I have to express milk most of the time."

Mrs Lee is aware of the possible ill effects of her daughter getting too much "screen time", but she is not overly worried.

Screen time is the time spent on any media device with a screen, such as TV sets, computers, video game consoles and handheld screen devices, like mobile phones and tablets.

She is among the many parents today who whip out their smart devices to entertain their children.

Indeed, a recent study at the National University of Singapore (NUS) by students from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, called Project iBaby, found that nine out of 10 children in the 18 to 24 months age group are exposed to screen devices.

As part of a community health project, the fourth-year students interviewed the parents of 800 children in February to find out how often young children use screen devices and the attitudes, practices and beliefs of their caregivers towards such use.

What is of concern is the amount of screen exposure young children are experiencing. The Project iBaby study discovered that almost half of these children under the age of two spend an hour or more on screen devices a day.

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