New research shows Australian teenagers are spending even more time in front of electronic devices, to the detriment of their long-term health.

With childhood and teenage obesity still a massive problem, an increase in screen time is only harming Australian youth even further.

The updated National Secondary Students’ Diet and Activity Survey found 77 per cent of Australian teenagers spent more than two hours using electronic devices for entertainment on school days, compared with 71 per cent in 2010. The proportion of teenagers exceeding the recommended two hours of screen time per day on weekends also increased, from 83 to 89 per cent.

Cancer Council Australia’s Public Health Committee chair Craig Sinclair says the increase threatened to undermine any modest benefit from a marginal improvement in physical activity levels.

“As a parent, I know how fixated kids can be with their electronic devices, but we have to get our kids moving and complement increased physical activity with healthier eating,” says Sinclair, adding that while there had been a marginal improvement in exercise levels since 2010, 82 per cent of teens were still not getting the recommended minimum of one hour’s physical activity each day to help protect their long-term health.

Heart Foundation National CEO Mary Barry reiterated the need for a national physical activity strategy.

“Overweight and obesity among young people is a significant public health issue in Australia, with overweight adolescents being at increased risk of becoming overweight adults and experiencing chronic diseases such as heart disease,” Barry says.

Barry says the contemporary problem of electronic devices was emerging as a new frontier in the fight against obesity and inactivity with 58 per cent of students having at least three televisions at home and 40 per cent having one in their bedroom.

The survey also found four in 10 students have video games in their bedroom, indicating a need for parents, schools and policy makers to work together to help ensure the use of electronic devices do not harm the long-term health of our young people.

Do you have a strategy for switching off? Let us know in the comments…