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Drop the tablets this summer: AMA

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The AMA is urging adults and children to lift their eyes from television and computer screens this summer and instead talk to each other more.
International studies suggest Australians are among the world’s most voracious users of technologies such as tablets, computers, music players, smart phones and gaming systems, and the AMA is concerned that excessive screen time can come at the cost of healthy development and social interaction.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said such products can be a “fantastic” resource for children, providing them with enormous opportunities for learning, communication and games.

“Some apps and computer programs can enhance children’s understanding in areas such as literacy, science and maths, and these apps and programs should be used in tandem with traditional learning methods at school and at home,” Dr Hambleton said.

But he warned that such technology should be used as an adjunct to, rather than replacement for, other forms of learning and interaction.

“Children and young people are definitely growing up in times when people are increasingly reliant on technology, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of genuine interpersonal interactions and real experience,” Dr Hambleton said. “Parents should look for apps that promote higher order thinking and which could encourage interaction with parents and other family members.”

The AMA recommended that parents limit the screen time of their children.

“For children over two years old, two hours per day should be the limit. Flat screens shouldn’t be used as babysitters for extended periods of time,” Dr Hambleton said. “It is also important to help children and adolescents balance their media usage. Too much time spent in front of a screen can be harmful to their development.”

The AMA said it was not just children who should limit their use of technology, pointing out that many adults spent an enormous amount of time using smart phones, computers and online.

According to a recent report, Australians spent on average more than 23 hours a week using such technologies, including almost seven hours a week on social media – the highest rate in the world.

Dr Hambleton said people needed to be conscious of the amount of time they spent using screens, and acknowledge that it could come at the expense of other, more rewarding aspects of life.

“While technology is often seen to enhance communication, it may not always be the case – virtual communication is no match for a face-to- face get-together,” Dr Hambleton said.

A 2011 study undertaken by Relationships Australia found that the more people used technology to communicate, the lonelier they were likely to be.

The survey also challenged the notion that the elderly were the most likely to be lonely, with findings indicating that those aged between 25 and 34 years were most likely to be lonely, followed by those aged between 18 and 24 years.

Adrian Rollins


Image by Prasenjeet Dutta on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence