4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/07/2013   
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Contents >> Health risk factors >> Physical activity and sedentary behaviour >> Household rules and screen-based equipment



The collection of information on screen-based items located in the bedroom included TVs, computers, game consoles, as well as associated devices such as DVD/Blu-ray players and digital video recorders. Portable items such as handheld devices or laptops that are used only some of the time in the child/young person’s bedroom were also included.

The collection of information pertaining to household rules involved respondents identifying the frequency of situations such as supervision while watching TV, using the internet or playing electronic games, doing homework before watching TV or playing game consoles, turning the TV off for meals, and time restrictions on watching TV. The questions did not specifically ask about whether rules were in place, but instead reflected household practices in place.


Information was collected for selected children aged 2 to 17 years in the NNPAS.


The 2-4 years and 5-17 years physical activity modules conclude with a series of questions on the home environment of the child.

Where children (6-14 years) have been involved with answering the questions around physical activity and sedentary screen-based questions, the questions are now directed back at the proxy (or the 15-17 year old if they are answering the whole survey without a proxy).

These questions included access to and rules around screen-based activities, including:

  • screen-based items in the bedroom
  • whether homework is done before TV/game consoles are watched or played (5-17 years only)
  • whether the TV is off during meal times
  • how often the child is supervised when watching TV
  • how often the child is supervised on the internet or when playing electronic games
  • how often the time watching TV or using the computer is restricted.

Portable items used in the bedroom, even if not located there all of the time, were to be included in screen-based items in the bedroom. The screen-based items collected were:
  • television
  • DVD/Blu-ray player
  • digital video recorder
  • computer (including desktop or laptop)
  • video game console.

Other screen-based items, such as phones, were not collected.

A 'Not applicable' category was included in the home environment questions for situations where there was no access to the equipment - for example, the television is always off during meal times because there is either no television in the household or no television in the room where meals are eaten.

Data Items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • There has been an increasing emphasis on the importance of restricting screen-based activities for children in recent years. This may have introduced bias with the reporting of socially desirable responses in some instances in regard to the home environment.
  • The concept of “how often” household rules around screen based activity usage are applied is subjective and open to individual interpretation. Thus households with similar strategies on screen based activity usage may report different frequencies for how often these strategies are implemented.

Comparability with other surveys

The specific questions comprising this topic have not previously been collected in an ABS survey.

Several surveys, both within Australia and internationally, have collected similar data on household rules and access to screen-based equipment. For example, similar questions have been collected in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. These include whether the child has a television in their bedroom, whether the TV is usually on during meals, and whether there are rules in place for TV, internet, and electronic games usage, such as the type of content, and the amount of time allowed. However, while the concepts collected in other surveys may be similar, the questions asked are not directly comparable and therefore any data comparisons with the AHS should be done with caution.

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