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S. Korean kids' screen time 3 times WHO recommendation: study

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Feb. 13, 2024 - 16:34

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South Korean kids aged between three and four spend about 184.8 minutes a day watching screens of electronic devices such as smartphones, TVs and computers, which is three times more than the recommended amount for the same age group by the World Health Organization, a recent study showed.

The Korea Press Foundation surveyed 2,675 children aged between three and nine around the country from Oct. 26 to Dec. 8, and they found that children aged 3-4 spend an average of 80.4 minutes watching TV, 52.6 minutes on smartphones, 40.7 minutes on tablet PCs, and 10.7 minutes on laptops or desktop computers.

This was far greater than the recommendations specified in the WHO guidelines published in 2019, which stated that sedentary screen time for children at that age should be no more than one hour. It also encouraged reading, storytelling with caregivers, and at least 180 minutes of physical activities.

Researchers also found that the daily screen time is 169 minutes for children aged five and six, and 196.9 minutes for those aged between seven and nine. Overall, the surveyed children spend an average of 185.9 minutes watching screens.

"The time children spend using media decreased compared to our 2020 survey -- four hours and 45 minutes -- which is a positive sign, but it is still substantially longer compared to the WHO recommendation," the researchers wrote.

The survey showed that a considerable portion of the population start using smartphones at very young age, revealing that 29.9 percent of the surveyed started using the device before becoming 24-months-old.

The WHO guideline states that sedentary screen time of any kind is not recommended for one-year-olds and says such screen time for two-year-olds should be no more than one hour.

The most common form of smartphone use for all groups -- it was possible to choose multiple answers -- was watching videos, as 70.3 percent said they use a smartphone to view videos on platforms like YouTube and Netflix. That was followed by 36.9 percent using the device for games, 27.9 percent for searching various information, 17.2 percent for filming and editing photos, and 13.6 percent for communicating with others.