Screen Time for Under 5s On The Rise

Get ready for our Screen Free Challenge

Playgroup WA is joining Kinderling Radio to promote an Australian-wide Screen Free Challenge! Watch out for more information in the coming weeks – families can sign-up to take part in the challenge and receive practical help and information on ways to monitor and limit screen time for  the under 5s!

Now read our latest blog on kids and screen time …

digital zombie thumbnail2Screen Time for Under 5s On The Rise

Towards the end of 2015, British researchers announced their under 5s were able to download apps quicker than most parents could swipe left or right.

The report showed that at least one third of UK kids under 5 OWNED their own tablet, which they used for 80 minutes each day.

And Aussie experts have warned stats for our littlest humans would be similar. (Warning, warning – if your under 5 OWNS a tablet I want to be immediately adopted into your family!)

It’s staggering to think that our under 5s not only know how to use a tablet but they also OWN one.

What happened to sharing or even saving up to buy something you really want? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think a tablet is an essential item for anyone who still has training wheels on their bike.

And experts PREDICT GOING FORWARD THE under 5s WILL be more likely to hit technological skill milestones before traditional developmental milestones – huh?

And this research would have me believe that when my 40-year old brain can not understand the sleek, shining beauty of the ‘mystical’ tablet I am better off calling over my 18-month old niece than my pre-teen. Oh cruel world!!


The UK researchers surveyed 2000 parents of 0 to 5 year olds and found that half of the little prodigies were able to swipe the screen; open apps; draw (?); tap the screen/make a command; enter and exit apps; adjust the volume and turn the device on/off!

And a whopping 13% bought ‘apps’ without help.

Confession time – I’ve NEVER bought an app. But then again I have three children – so I probably have apps, I just don’t know what they are. (I feel like my elderly grandparents must have felt when I showed them how easy it was to use a push button phone in the 1990s!)

So back to what this means for our next generation – chances are they will be coding and designing the next user interface BEFORE they can tie their own shoelaces.

Yes, our pre-schoolers will be CREATING media rather than simply consuming it.

So traditional toy makers are scurrying to keep pace and we will soon find most store bought toys WILL cross over into the digital or ‘virtual’ world to ensure brand longevity. And they WILL have an app (stop yawning I didn’t say ‘nap’).

So where does this leave the good old cardboard box and kid’s imagination?

Many parents still believe, and would argue, that REAL PLAY needs to be the focus of childhood.

Children absorb so much through play and while we can’t shut out the digital domain, can’t we delay entry into this brave new world so our under 5s can just explore and play in the physical realm?


When my youngest saw his brother playing on a tablet (gasp, shock, horror) he quickly ran to his room and came back with a small, tin lid. He went and sat next to his older sibling, turned the lid on its side and starting making noises identical to those coming from his brother’s device. I asked him what he was doing and he told me “I’m playing on my tablet.”

It was a precious and beautiful moment that married these two worlds beautifully but for me the clear winner was his imagination!

The reality is balance helps in all situations. Monitor your little ones on those tablets – set some boundaries and install parental controls so they can’t download too many apps and none that cost!

The last thing you need is another surprise when the credit card bill arrives at the end of the month…

Kath is a 40-year-old mum of three who works part time and enjoys reading, writing and catching up with other stressed out mums in her spare time. Usually she’s racing against the clock to make her boys (+ husband) arrive anywhere on time and feels quite the talented mother when two out of the three make it out of the house with shoes on!