Finnish tykes spend two hours a day glued to screens

Finnish research has found that young children spend an average of nearly two hours a day looking at screens. The Dagis report found that those children who spent more time using screens slept worse than their less-technological peers.

Viisivuotias Kaisla katselee iPadia, kuvassa myös perheen kissa.
Finnish children in a recent study were found to spend nearly two hours a day in front of screens, on average. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Finnish children in a study of 3-6-year-olds had an average of nearly two hours of screen time each day. Parents of nearly 800 children were asked to keep a diary listing their children's time using electronic devices.

Television on in the background was not included in the totals, only time where the children were giving the screen their full attention.

The Folkhälsan Research Centre study found that the older kids get, the more time they spend on electronic devices, with the average coming in at one hour and 51 minutes. Four in ten children spent an average of more than two hours using electronic devices each day.

"Children who had more screen time slept less (than their peers) during the research week," said researcher Suvi Määttä.

Television took the most time, with an average of 56 minutes per day, DVDs or videos took up an average of 26 minutes, while tablets or smartphones accounted for 22 minutes. Computers were responsible for the remaining nine minutes of screen time each day.

Far above US guideline

In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that babies 18 months of age and under should have zero screen time, while children 18 months to 5 years should watch no more than one hour, accompanied by an adult. No such recommendation has been issued in Finland.

The study was carried out by Folkhälsan, a Swedish-language NGO in the social welfare and health care sector in Finland. It has a research centre with a staff of 100 at Biomedicum Helsinki, a research centre affiliated with Helsinki University Central Hospital.

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