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4156.0.55.001 - Perspectives on Sport, June 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2010   
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SQUARE EYES AND COUCH POTATOES CHILDREN'S PARTICIPATION IN SCREEN-BASED ACTIVITIES


INTRODUCTION

Parents and the wider community have for some time been concerned about the amount of time that children are spending in front of the television. Children today have more access to a wide range of screen-based activities, such as watching television and DVDs, playing electronic games and accessing the Internet, than ever before. The availability of digital and pay TV, both with dedicated children's channels, has also created extended opportunities for viewing. Indeed, it has been reported that one third of children around the world spend three hours a day or more watching television or using computers (Endnote 1).

Children's participation in more sedentary forms of recreation, such as playing computer games, has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the key worldwide trends contributing to an overall increase in childhood obesity (Endnote 2).

The 2007-08 ABS National Health Survey found that around 25% of Australian children aged 5 to 17 years were either overweight or obese. The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing states on its website that the most concerning long-term consequence of childhood obesity is its persistence into adulthood and an increased likelihood of developing short and long-term health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure (Endnote 3).

Using data from the 2009 ABS survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities (cat. no. 4901.0) this article will investigate the time that Australian children aged 5-14 years are spending on screen-based activities and how this may interact with their participation in organised sport and other physical recreation activities. Relevant comparisons with data from the 2003 and 2006 Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities (CPCLA) surveys will also be made.

The CPCLA survey collects information on children's participation in cultural activities and organised sports outside of school hours during the 12 months prior to interview, and on participation in selected leisure activities (including screen-based activities) outside of school hours during the most recent two school weeks prior to interview. Users should keep in mind that the leisure activities included in the CPCLA survey do not constitute all possible types of physical activity that may be undertaken by children.


SHIFTING PRIORITIES: 2003, 2006 AND 2009

In 2009 the rate of participation by children in screen-based activities such as accessing the Internet, watching TV, DVDs or videos and other screen-based activities was much higher than participation in physical activities such as organised sport. Children's participation in watching TV, DVDs or videos has not changed greatly since the survey of CPCLA in 2003 (98%), with nearly every child in 2009 (97% or 2.65 million children) reporting that they had watched TV in the two weeks prior to interview. Accessing the Internet increased from 65% in 2006 to 79% in 2009. The participation rate of children in organised sport did not change significantly between 2003 (62%) and 2009 (63%).

Participation in organised sport and selected leisure activities - 2003, 2006 and 2009
Graph: Participation in organised sport and selected leisure activities—2003, 2006 and 2009


A new category was collected in 2009 called 'other screen-based activities'. This is defined as 'any screen-based activities aside from watching TV, DVDs and videos. This may include, but is not limited to, using the computer or Internet, playing games on a games console or mobile phone, and creating music playlists or viewing photos on an MP3 player'. The participation rate in other screen-based activities in 2009 was 83%.


TIME SPENT PARTICIPATING IN ORGANISED SPORT

The 2009 survey of CPCLA shows that the number of hours that children spent participating in organised sport in the two weeks prior to interview was similar to the number of hours spent in 2003. Most children in 2003 (39%) and in 2009 (41%) spent 2 hours or less participating in organised sport. At the opposite end of the scale, only 3% of children in 2003 and 4% in 2009 spent 20 hours or more. Changes in levels of participation in organised sport by children who participated for 5-9 hours and 10-19 hours were not significant.

Time spent participating in organised sport in last two weeks - 2003 and 2009
Graph: Time spent participating in organised sport in last two weeks—2003 and 2009


On average, both boys and girls spent fewer hours in 2009 participating in organised sport (5 hours in the two weeks prior to interview) compared with participating in screen-based activities. Boys spent an average of 12 hours and girls spent an average of 10 hours on other screen-based activities. Both boys and girls spent more than three times the average number of hours watching TV, DVDs or videos (17 hours) than on organised sport participation.

Average time spent on selected activities in last two weeks, By sex -2009
Graph: Average time spent on selected activities in last two weeks, By sex –2009



WATCHING TV, DVDS OR VIDEOS AND OTHER SCREEN-BASED ACTIVITIES

Both time spent watching TV, DVDs or videos and time spent on other screen-based activities peaked at 10-19 hours with 38% and 28% respectively. Significantly more children spent 20 hours or more watching TV, DVDs or videos (36%) than on other screen-based activities (18%). There were also more children who spent 2 hours or less on other screen-based activities (18%) compared with those who watched TV, DVDs or videos (4%) for the same length of time.

Time spent on screen-based activities in last two weeks - 2009
Graph: Time spent on screen-based activities in last two weeks—2009


Of the 83% of children who participated in other screen-based activities in 2009, 20% of boys and 16% of girls reported spending 20 hours or more on this activity. Girls (22%) were more likely than boys (14%) to have spent only 2 hours or less with equal proportions of boys and girls (21%) spending 5-9 hours.

Time spent on other screen-based activities in last two weeks, By sex - 2009
Graph: Time spent on other screen-based activities in last two weeks, By sex—2009



Time spent on screen-based activities by age

In 2009, children's participation in watching TV, DVDs or videos did not vary between age groups. A different pattern is noticeable however, within the categories of other screen-based activities and accessing the Internet.

Participation in screen-based activities in the last two weeks, By age - 2009

Watching TV, DVD or videos
Other screen-based activities
Accessed the Internet
%
%
%

5-8 years
96.8
73.8
59.9
9-11 years
97.8
88.2
88.5
12-14 years
97.6
90.1
95.5

Source: Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2009 (cat. no. 4901.0)


In 2009 the rate of children aged 12-14 years participating in other screen-based activities was 90%, significantly higher than the participation rate of children aged 5-8 years (74%). The rate of participation of children aged 12-14 years (96%) who accessed the Internet was also higher than those aged 9-11 years (89%). Although children in the youngest age group (5-8 years) were the least likely to have accessed the Internet (60%) or to have participated in other screen-based activities (74%), the rates still pointed to a substantial proportion of children in the age group being involved in these activities.

Not only does the rate of participation in other screen-based activities increase in the older age groups, older children are also spending more hours on the activity. In 2009, 34% of children aged 12 to 14 years spent 10-19 hours on other screen-based activities and 29% spent 20 hours or more. Of children aged 5-8 years the highest proportion (28%) spent 2 hours or less on other screen-based activities.

Time spent on other screen-based activities in last two weeks, By age - 2009
Graph: Time spent on other screen-based activities in last two weeks, By age—2009



Accessing the Internet

The proportion of children who accessed the Internet increased with age from 60% of children aged 5-8 years, to 96% of children aged 12-14 years. The type of Internet activity also changed depending on age. Advancing technology has played a big part in the popularity of some activities and in changing the way that the Internet is used. An example of this is the current popularity of social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook which have only been introduced in the last few years (Endnote 4).

In 2009 the most popular type of Internet use at home for children aged 9 -11 and 12-14 years was educational activities with participation rates of more than 90% in both age groups. Educational activities is the second most popular type of Internet use for children aged 5-8 years with a participation rate of 64%.

For those children using the Internet playing online games was the most popular type of activity reported by children aged 5-8 years ( 77%) and was the second most popular type of Internet activity for children aged 9-11 years (73%). It was not one of five most popular types of Internet activity for children aged 12-14 years.

Other general Internet surfing or browsing was the third most popular type of Internet activity for children of all ages. Listening to or downloading music was also one of the five most popular types of Internet use for all age groups. Emailing, while popular for children aged 12-14 years (60%) and 9-11 years (31%), does not feature in the five most popular types of Internet activity for children aged 5-8 years. Almost 60% of 12-14 year olds used chat rooms, forums or instant messaging.

Five most popular types of Internet activity done at home, By age - 2009

Proportion
%

5-8 years
Playing online games
76.7
Educational activities
64.3
Other general surfing or browsing
28.7
Listening to or downloading music
17.9
Watching or downloading TV programs, videos or movies
16.8
9-11 years
Educational activities
90.8
Playing online games
73.3
Other general surfing or browsing
47.9
Listening to or downloading music
42.8
Emailing
30.7
12-14 years
Educational activities
94.4
Listening to or downloading music
73.3
Other general surfing or browsing
67.7
Emailing
59.9
Using chat rooms, forums or instant messaging
59.5

Source: Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2009 (cat. no. 4901.0)



ORGANISED SPORT AND SCREEN-BASED ACTIVITIES

In 2009, the results of the CPCLA survey showed that as children spent more hours watching TV, DVDs or videos their rate of participation in organised sport decreased. Children who spent 20 hours or more watching TV, DVDs or videos in the two weeks prior to interview had a lower participation rate (62%) in sport than children who spent 4 hours or less (66%).

Time spent watching TV, DVDs or videos in the last two weeks, By participation in organised sport - 2009
Graph: Time spent watching TV, DVDs or videos in the last two weeks, By participation in organised sport – 2009


Of children who spent 20 hours or more on other screen-based activities, 38% also spent two hours or less participating in organised sport with 27% spending 5-9 hours. The lowest proportion (4%) participated in organised sport for 20 hours or more.

Time spent participating in organised sport in last two weeks, By children who spent 20 hours or more on other screen-based activities-2009
Graph: Time spent particpating in organised sport in last two weeks, By children who spent 20 hours or more on other screen-based activities–2009



Internet use and number of sports played

Of all children aged 5-14 years, more than one third (37%) played no sport. Of the children who did participate in sport, 33% played one sport, 19% played two sports and 10% played three or more. Of children who accessed the Internet for 20 hours or more 58% played one sport or more while 42% played no sport at all . Where children accessed the Internet for 4 hours or less per week, 28% played no sport and 72% played one sport or more.

Hours child accessed Internet per week, By number of sports played - 2009
Graph: Hours child accessed Internet per week, By number of sports played—2009


Compared with children aged 5-8 years (60%) and 9-11 years (89%), children aged 12-14 years had the highest rate of participation in accessing the Internet (96%) in 2009.

Looking at children aged 12-14 years who usually accessed the Internet for 20 hours per week, 42% reported that they played no sport. In contrast 9% played three or more sports. Of those children who accessed the Internet for 4 hours or less per week 28% did not play any sport, 35% played one sport while 14% played three or more.

Hours child aged 12-14 years usually accesses Internet per week, By number of sports played - 2009
Graph: Hours child aged 12-14 years usually accesses Internet per week, By number of sports played – 2009



MOBILE PHONES

Mobile phones are becoming increasingly capable of doing much more than just making phone calls. This one device may now be used to access the Internet, play games and listen to music, providing yet another avenue for children to spend time on screen-based activities.

For the first time in 2009 the CPCLA collected data about children's mobile phone ownership and whether they used a mobile phone to access the Internet. At the time of interview, 31% of children had a mobile phone.

Only 2% of children aged 5-8 years owned a mobile phone compared with 23% of children aged 9-11 years and 76% of children aged 12-14 years. Children aged 5-8 years were more likely to use their mobile phone for contacting family (95%) compared with children aged 12-14 years (52%). Only 4% of children used their mobile phone to access the Internet.

Children's use of mobile phones, By age - 2009
Graph: Children's use of mobile phones, By age—2009


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ENDNOTES

1. Australasian Leisure Management, Accessed 27 April, 2010 <http://www.ausleisure.com.au/default.asp?PageID=1&ReleaseID=2208&Display=True>

2. World Health Organisation, Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, Overweight and Obesity, Accessed 27 April 2010 <http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_young_people/en/index.html>

3. Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, A healthy and Active Australia, Accessed 27 April, 2010 <http://www.healthyactive.gov.au/internet/healthyactive/publishing.nsf/Content/overweight-obesity>

4. Wikipedia, Accessed 27 April 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/>


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