A leading Perth paediatrician is urging WA parents to reduce their kids’ “screen time”.
THE NATURAL environment is being replaced by a digital world for today's children and is at risk of never being re-discovered, a prominent Perth doctor has warned.
Dr David Roberts said the increasing reliance on technology as entertainment for children had seen a rapid, disturbing decline in outdoor play.
Dr Roberts, chief executive of Nature Play WA, said parents were also partly to blame by restricting their children's outdoor activities out of fear that they may come to harm.
"There is a television in every second child's bedroom, and then the ubiquitous hand-held device to help them tolerate the perceived boredom of the still, the quiet times"
"Physical activity has always been about play outdoors, and this is being lost. There are many causes, but in the past two generations, the principal culprit has been electronic screen exposure," he said.
"The impact upon children of this cultural change is seen in their health and psychological development."
Dr Roberts, a consultant paediatrician and former Australian Medical Association WA branch president, said the trend became evident when he asked children to make three "magic wishes" when taking a medical history.
"With alarming regularity, they devote at least two and often all three wishes to electronic screens," he said.
"Likewise there is a television in every second child's bedroom, and then the ubiquitous hand-held device to help them tolerate the perceived boredom of the still, the quiet times."
He said while children from previous generations discovered the natural world as a virtue of childhood, "that is no longer the case, and for our culture, it probably will never be rediscovered."
"And attempts to simply wind the clock back to the childhood experience so many of us enjoyed is simply unattainable," he said.
Dr Roberts said society must find new ways to enable children to engage with the outdoors, and said the new facilities at Kings Park were a "good start."
The education centre includes 20 "living classrooms", such as tree logs for seating under shady trees, a jetty in the Water Corporation Wetland and a concrete-lined fire pit facility for Aboriginal story telling.
A report from the University of WA, commissioned last year for the state government, found electronic screen use, such as watching television or DVDs, and using computers, video games and portable devices, was the most common leisure activity of youth in Australia.
It found a large majority of children and adolescents in Australia exceed the recommended maximum of two hours a day of screen use for leisure, and the reduction in time spent outdoors was resulting in negative outcomes, such as obesity, poor sleep habits, loneliness and depression.