Parenting strategies crucial to healthy screen use in under-5s

23 May 2023

A University of Queensland study has outlined a series of recommendations which can be used to develop strategies for parents to better manage screen use in under-fives.

Associate Professor Alina Morawska, Director of UQ’s Parenting Family Support Centre said most Australian children under five spend more time on screens than advised.

“Some parents find the Australian screen time guidelines challenging to follow due to their confidence in implementing guidelines, mixed feelings about screen use, child resistance and their own screen use and ability to regulate use,” Dr Morawska said.

“Given that screens are now part of our lives, the central issue is no longer how much screens are being used, but how they are being used, in what context and under what circumstances.

“A parent’s mental health, agreement between parents about screen use and the presence of older siblings can influence parenting practices around child screen use.

“Understanding factors that influence parenting such as these is required to move from simply quantifying screen use and its associated effects to better understanding the function of different types of screen use for both parents and children.”

The Australian government, World Health Organization and other international bodies promote the same guidelines.

This recommends zero screen time for children under two years and less than one hour of screen use per day for children aged two to five.

Dr Amy Mitchell from UQ’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work and School of Psychology recommends that parents and children should keep screen time to moderate levels, ensure content is safe and ideally designed to support children’s development.

“It is important that parents have the skills and confidence to successfully implement preventive health practices with their child,” Dr Mitchell said.

“Excessive screen use in childhood is associated with shorter attention span, reduced ability to control frustration, poorer psychological health and cognitive development, poorer sleep and weaker language development.

“By encouraging the development of healthy habits around screen use from the earliest years of life, parents can set the foundation for healthier behaviour patterns into adulthood.

“We hope that our model can be used as a framework for research and intervention testing which will lead to improved understanding of factors that influence child screen use, and inform the development of evidence-based parenting supports.”

The study is published in Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.

Media: Kirsten O’Leary, UQ Communications,, +61 412 307 594 @UQHealth