Parents urged to limit kids' screen time

Parents urged to limit kids' screen time

Playing is healthier, experts advise

A girl laughs while an orangutan kisses her cheek at Safari World in Khlong Sam Wa district, Bangkok, on Oct 17, 2021. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
A girl laughs while an orangutan kisses her cheek at Safari World in Khlong Sam Wa district, Bangkok, on Oct 17, 2021. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Department of Health has suggested parents spend more time playing with their kids after its survey found 64% of children under six years old spend more than one hour on electronic devices daily.

Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the department, said on Friday that the survey revealed the importance of real-life play in early childhood.

"Children learn while they're playing. Parental interaction through play will contribute significantly to kids' development of cognitive and executive functioning skills," he said.

Dr Suwannachai said children should spend "healthy time" with parents or siblings and also be exposed to nature and recreational activities suited to their development. Such activities will stimulate brain development and improve their emotional, social and intellectual skills, he said.

The survey was based on the 6th Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office in 2019. A total of 8,856 children under six years of age from 17 provinces were enrolled in the survey. The survey also included information gathered from interviews with mothers and legal guardians conducted by the International Health Policy Program (IHPP) and Unicef.

Dr Thaksaphon Thamrangsri, director of the IHPP, said 90.3% of participants engaged in at least four out of six activities with their children such as singing songs, telling stories and drawing.

Children who possessed three or more children's books and had experienced playing with toys had a significantly higher chance of having had parental interactions, leading to triple the exposure to play during early childhood.

Kids who spent one to three hours on electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, had a significantly lower chance of having parental interactions than those who spent less than one on devices, the survey found. About 64% of children who use electronic devices more than one hour a day have less than a 50% chance to spend their time playing.

With the emerging influence of digital technology, the survey recommended parents play with kids as opposed to leaving them with electronic devices, Dr Thaksaphon said, adding that children played to make sense of the world around them.

They will practice skills and discover new challenges, leading to deeper learning, he said.

When children play, they learn to communicate and understand others, which paves the way for them to build more powerful relationships, especially with their parents, according to Dr Udom Asawutmangkul, director of the department's Physical Activity and Health Division.

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