SA kids glued to screens - what it means

A UCT study has found that children spend more than three hours a day looking at screens
A UCT study has found that children spend more than three hours a day looking at screens

South African children are spending more than three hours per day looking at screens - excluding for school work.

This is according to the 2018 Healthy Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA) report from the University of Cape Town’s Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA).

The recommended daily screen time for children in school is two hours‚ for preschoolers one hour and none for children under two years of age.

Rhodes University’s Professor Harry Dugmore said advertisers would use social media to market fast food and soft drinks directly to children with the rise of smartphones.

“This is concerning because social media‚ and the online space‚ in particular‚ is the Wild West in terms of unregulated and fairly intense and intimate access to children and adolescents’ attention.”

The report‚ released on Tuesday‚ was compiled by 30 experts from 14 institutions and organisations.

It found more than nine out of 10 (94%) of infants and toddlers in low-income and urban areas reportedly exceeded the recommended screen time and “more TV time was related to unhealthy weight”.

Close to 10% of three to five-year-old children were overweight and one in four were stunted.

About half of the country's children are getting the recommended levels of daily physical activity which is between 57 and 65 minutes.

“Those with higher physical activity levels are less likely to be obese or to use tobacco and marijuana and are more likely to have a better quality of life and motor skills‚” the report said.

Safety was also a problem as four in five (80%) poor children walked to school.

“Almost two-thirds of parents are uncomfortable with their child walking to school‚ but lack the necessary resources to change this.”

Barriers stopping children from playing outside included crime‚ a lack of resources‚ space and facilities.

Regarding diet‚ one in five schools serves the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables at school.

The report also found that about half of SA children often purchased food from tuck shops and vendors who mostly sold food with poor nutritional value‚ that was high in calories and filled with added salt and sugar.

The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) spends on average R2.51 per child daily in feeding about nine million South African children.

Some of the problems around the NSNP included the amount and types of food children were fed.

In more than four out of five schools (82%)‚ food was served after 10am‚ resulting in children struggling to concentrate in class.

“There are days and‚ in some cases‚ months‚ that school feeding does not take place‚ due to schools not receiving funds‚ late delivery of foods‚ or lack of fuel for cooking.”