Disadvantaged children are watching more television than children from higher socio-economic backgrounds, a study has found.
The study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the University of New England found one-third of children aged over two spent more than the American Academy of Paediatrics' recommended limit of two hours per day watching TV, especially at weekends.
AIFS researcher Ben Edwards said the longitudinal study of Australian children, which tracked the television use of 10,000 children aged up to 10, revealed children from higher socio-economic backgrounds tended to spend less time watching TV and more time reading or being read to.
Among the disadvantaged families, 41 to 47 per cent of the children were not read to at all compared with just 15 to 22 per cent of children from the advantaged families.
"By the time children were aged between four and five, the proportion of children from more disadvantaged backgrounds watching more than three hours TV per day was more than double that of children from advantaged backgrounds," Dr Edwards said. Nature Play chief executive Griffin Longley said obesity, stemming from inactivity, was the most important issue facing WA children.
"Perhaps the greatest threat to modern kids is the impact of inactivity and the loss of unstructured play," he said. "Those impacts are on physical and mental health, cognitive and emotional development and resilience."
Mt Claremont mother Carina Marshall, a part-time scientist at the University of UWA, said she and her husband Luke enforced a ban on TV during the school term for their children Lorian, 8 and Rigel, 6.
During the school holidays the children earned 10-minute TV vouchers by playing outside, reading books or doing chores.
A 2008 survey on trends in physical activity in WA children and adolescents found 71 per cent of primary school-aged boys and 75 per cent of girls did more than the recommended two hours of screen-based recreation a day.
Fifty-nine per cent of primary-school boys, 73 per cent of primary-school girls and 90 per cent of secondary-school girls failed to meet guidelines for an hour of physical activity a day.A 2011 Australian Communications and Media Authority report found 99 per cent of Australian households have at least one television set and there are about 18.7 million working television sets in private dwellings in Australia - an average of 2.2 per household.
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