Boys spend longer on screens than girls, study shows

More than half of boys aged 7 and 8 have over 3 hours screen time a day at the weekend

Typical screen time for children on a weekday was reported to be between one and two hours. Photograph: Getty Images

Typical screen time for children on a weekday was reported to be between one and two hours. Photograph: Getty Images

 

More than half of boys aged seven and eight years have upwards of three hours of screen time on a typical day at the weekend, according to a new study from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Typical screen time for children on a weekday was reported to be between one and two hours but increased to over three hours each day at the weekend.

The Growing Up in Ireland study, which examined problems facing children aged seven and eight, found that 14 per cent of boys and 10 per cent of girls had more than three hours of screen time on a typical weekday.

On a typical day at the weekend, 51 per cent of boys and 39 per cent of girls had more than three hours of screen time.

The study outlined the amount of time a child spent looking at a screen varied depending on the level of their mother’s education.

Some 23 per cent of seven and eight year olds whose mothers have Junior Certificate level education or less had more than three hours of screen time on a weekday compared to six per cent of those whose mother had a degree.

James Williams, research professor at the ESRI said young boys have significantly more screen time than girls.

“Screen time is being defined broadly here, it could be a tv, a phone, a tablet or whatever,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday.

“We do notice gender differences here, boys have substantially more screen time than girls both during the week and at the weekend.

“Again there is some sort of social profiling going on here, children from more socially disadvantaged families would have significantly higher levels of screen time than those from more advantaged families.”

Play time

Reading, ‘make-believe’ games and playing on a computer or tablet were the most frequent play activities reported by the children’s mothers.

Some 35 per cent read for pleasure every day while 22 per cent did so less than 1-2 times a week.

Boys were more likely to play physically active games but also more computer games. Girls were more likely to enjoy dance, music, crafts and reading.

The study also found that children who find it difficult to settle into school when they start continue to find it difficult in later years.

Children who were identified by their teachers at five years of age as having a negative attitude or disposition to school were reported by their mothers to have had more adjustment problems two years later.

Young boys are more likely than girls to find it difficult to concentrate in school.

The study found that 19 per cent of boys found it difficult to sit still and listen in class, compared to eight per cent of girls.

The majority of mothers (90 per cent) reported that their child had adjusted easily to school.

Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of mothers said their seven or eight year-old did not find it difficult to sit still and listen in class.

Mothers who had third level education were less likely to say their child usually found schoolwork hard (two per cent) compared to those who had left school at Junior Certificate or earlier (five per cent).

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said the evidence would “feed into future policy...right across Government”.

“The findings show that many children are doing well, settling into school and experiencing positive health and well-being,” Minister Zappone said.

“But they also draw attention to more problematic issues and help identify which groups are doing less well and where support may be required.”

The study, funded by the Department of Children, looked at how 5,000 children were developing across a range of issues including health, education and emotional development.