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Hong Kong children spend four to six hours a day on e-gadgets, Putting Health and Relationships at Risk

Children spend four hours or more on e-gadgets a day 02

Hong Kong, renowned for its fast-paced lifestyle and technological advancements, is grappling with a concerning trend among its younger generation. A recent survey conducted by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Hong Kong has revealed that children in the city are spending an alarming four to six hours per day on electronic devices, surpassing the two-hour limit set by the Department of Health.

Between July and October of last year, the YWCA surveyed 773 parents of primary school pupils, shedding light on the detrimental effects of excessive screen time. The findings indicate a direct correlation between parental device usage and children’s attachment to phones, tablets, and computers.

On weekdays, children aged six to 12 spend an average of four hours per day engaged in non-academic activities on electronic devices, including watching TV. This figure spikes to six hours per day on weekends, significantly exceeding the Department of Health’s recommendations.

The study further reveals that children’s phone usage during weekends is nearly twice as long as that of their parents. More than four out of five children utilize electronic devices primarily for watching videos, while 60 percent are engaged in gaming.

Kurt Nan, a research assistant at the YWCA, highlighted the detrimental impact of excessive screen time, stating, “More than half of the parents have conflicts with their children due to the usage of digital devices. To deal with the conflicts, most of them would take away the devices from their children.” However, the survey found that only 10 percent of parents actively remind their children to reduce their screen time, and a mere five percent engage in negotiations.

The personal account of Candy, a mother of a 10-year-old, serves as a stark reminder of the severity of the issue. Candy’s son became addicted to mobile games, resulting in conflicts within the family. She recounted an incident where her son pushed his grandmother away when she tried to intervene, and he once locked himself in the bathroom for an hour to satisfy his gaming addiction. The game’s constant demand for daily logins and the temptation to purchase special gaming items further aggravated the situation.

Realizing the detrimental impact on the family’s relationships, Candy found that taking her son outdoors on weekends was the most effective solution to curb his addiction. However, such instances of conflict demonstrate the urgent need for parents to address the issue proactively.

Ivan Kwok Yee-chung, chief officer at the YWCA, emphasized that parents often resort to strict measures to control their children’s device usage, inadvertently exacerbating conflicts. Kwok stressed the importance of spending time outdoors and fostering open communication to effectively monitor screen time. Rather than resorting to negative approaches such as shutting down the network, he encourages parents to gradually establish guidelines for electronic device usage and engage in negotiations that take their children’s needs into account. By doing so, parents can create an environment where children are more willing to adhere to these guidelines.

The rise in screen time among Hong Kong children can be attributed, in part, to the increased reliance on online learning during the pandemic. However, it is crucial not to overlook the adverse consequences, such as reduced time spent reading and interacting with family members, which can impact a child’s overall development.

As Hong Kong continues to embrace technological advancements, it is imperative that parents, educators, and policymakers work together to strike a balance between the benefits of digital devices and the well-being of children. By adopting a proactive approach and fostering healthy habits, Hong Kong can ensure that its younger generation thrives in a digital age while preserving crucial aspects of their development and family life.

In this era of boundless connectivity, it is our responsibility to safeguard the well-being of our children and empower them to harness the opportunities of the digital world responsibly.