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Call to limit preschooler screen time

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/05/2016

The amount of time preschoolers are spending looking at screens needs to be limited, a study has found.

The report published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health says guidelines are needed for early childhood centres to make sure they're encouraging physical activity and monitoring how much children are looking at screens.

None of the 237 pre-schools surveyed had any kind of written policy about limiting screen use, the study found.

Children were reported to watch TV or DVDs at least once a week in 13 per cent of services and every day in 2 per cent - along with using computers once a week in a third of pre-schools and every day in 11 per cent of them.

"In contrast to the perception of many adults, pre-schoolers are not naturally active and energetic. Instead they need lots of opportunities and encouragement to engage in active movement," said University of Auckland PHD student Sarah Gerritsen.

Although she has not given an optimum amount of screen time, she has called for clear guidelines for centres to be brought in.

"The current review of the Ministry of Healths physical activity guidelines could be an opportunity to include specific information for the childcare sector that assist ECE providers in improving their own policies," she said.

"How active pre-schoolers are has immediate and long-term consequences for their physical and mental health."

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