Excessive Screen Time And Obesity Rated As Top Child Health Concerns Of Aussie Parents

02/12/2015 6:38 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Two half Asian Brothers sitting and laying down on a day bed in front of a large flat screen TV on location

It seems parents are wearing rose-tinted glasses when it comes to their kids' health and wellbeing, according to a new study released on Wednesday by The Royal Children's Hospital.

The nationwide poll found while 48 percent of parents rate obesity as a big health problem for Aussie kids, only 8 percent actually identify their own children in the mix.

Dr Anthea Rhodes, Director of the Australian Child Health Poll, told The Huffington Post Australia these figures were concerning.

"It suggests that parents for whatever reason are less likely to recognise these problems for their own children in these families," she said.

"If parents cannot identify the issue, they are much less likely to take on the health guidelines."

children health problems

In Australia, 25 percent of children aged five to 14 are overweight or obese, leading to long term chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The research also revealed parent's number one child health concern is excessive screen time, followed by obesity, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet.

Dr Rhodes said screen time was a major concern due to the lack of support programs for parents on how to manage it.

"Managing screen time is very challenging because it is not a traditional health problem -- so places where parents can go to for help and assistance are really not clear," she told HuffPost Australia.

"While for other issues like asthma or allergies you might start with GP, talk to a pediatrician and get treatment, for concerns like screen time or unhealthy diet, it's not so clear where people go to for help and it becomes easier to ignore."

Kathy Chapman, Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, told HuffPost Australia parents are pretty spot on when it comes which issues should be of concern.

"Obesity is definitely one of the top health concerns for children and screen time is often a signal of an unhealthy lifestyle -- when children are spending too much time playing on electronic games instead of getting outside and being active, that is going to contribute to obesity," she said.

Australian Government Guidelines recommend a daily limit of two hours screen time for entertainment purposes to prevent health problems such as poor posture, poor eyesight, sleep problems, social problems and obesity.

As it stands, around 77 percent of students are plugged in for more than a couple of hours per day, according to a study released by the Cancer Council and National Heart Foundation earlier this year.

Dr Rhodes said the advice is simple but challenging given our modern lifestyles.

"Eat better, move more, switch off the screen. It's as easy and as difficult as that," she said.

However, she agreed that policy makers and healthcare providers need to play a role in shifting people's attitudes around children's health and well-being.

"It's really interesting to us that it is the Australian public that have given excessive screen time a place in the list of the biggest health problems. It is being recognised and that's where we need to start," Dr Rhodes said.

"However, I would also like to see policy makers and healthcare providers looking at some innovative ways to deal with these problems."

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