Gideon Heik with sister Ariella playing with his iPad under controlled conditions. Picture: Adam Taylor
Gideon Heik with sister Ariella playing with his iPad under controlled conditions. Picture: Adam Taylor

Aussie kids wasting childhood on devices

Australian children are wasting their childhood staring at screens, according to new research from UNSW Sydney's Gonski Institute for Education, that shows phones are dominating play.

Nearly 92 per cent of Australians believe phones have reduced physical activity levels and outdoor play time for children, according to the survey.

About the same number of people believe play is an important part of building key life skills that adults need to navigate life, such as collaboration, self control and problem solving.

Gideon Heik with sister Ariella playing with his iPad under controlled conditions. Picture: Adam Taylor
Gideon Heik with sister Ariella playing with his iPad under controlled conditions. Picture: Adam Taylor

The survey comes after News Corp Australia revealed new research that showed that internet addiction is a common problem among Australian high school students, and is leading to mental health problems.

The new attitudinal research from UNSW finds most people agree school students are not spending enough time on play.

More than 77 per cent believe social media is a distraction for schoolchildren and most people believe too much pressure is placed on children to grow up too quickly.

Institute Research Director Professor Pasi Sahlberg, a renowned international education expert, said children are losing the benefits of free outdoor play and instead are watching digital screens.

"Australian children spend much longer hours in school than their peers in most other countries and still have less time for unstructured play during the school day.

"These new findings reveal a total of 85 per cent of parents say kids today spend less time playing than they did when they were their children's age," Professor Sahlberg said.

"It is clear the vast majority of adults highly value the benefits of play for children's wellbeing and development, and this matches up with what we know from overseas research and what we are doing here.

"Learning through play may be the most effective and easiest way to help all children to learn collaboration, problem-solving, resiliency, creativity and empathy which are all highly desired future job skills.

"Smartphones certainly have a role to play in all our lives but at the right times and in the right ways," Professor Sahlberg said.

"I think society is only catching up to the impacts of technology and social media on children and there needs to be some controls around this."