2019 MatCH Update
Welcome to the 2019 update on the Mothers and their Children's Health (MatCH) study.
Thank you for taking part in the Mothers and their Children's Health study. It's time once again for us to share an update on how your family's data is helping to reveal the relationships between children, their mothers, and their environments.
2019 was a busy year with research based on your data making headlines around the world. Our research on whether kids are meeting screen time guidelines sparked debate in over 140 different TV, newspaper, radio and online news outlets - including ABC radio and the Channel 9, Channel 10 and SBS news. Research on which types of play equipment gets kids up and moving also made headlines around the world including these pieces in the The Sydney Morning Herald and Hindustan Times.
Researchers from the University of Queensland and University of Newcastle continue to analyse your survey responses and plan to publish more findings on a range of topics in 2020, including:
- Childhood asthma
- Healthy and unhealthy eating
- Preconception health
- The impact of environmental exposures (green space, ambient air pollution, noise pollution), on children's health and behaviour
- The impact of maternal mental health on children's health and behaviour
In this update we're including a taste of the research published in the past year on screen time, play equipment and physical activity.
The right stuff:
the play equipment that gets kids moving
In Australia, only 20% of kids aged 5-17 meet physical activity guidelines, (i.e. 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity)
*Results From Australia’s 2016 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
MatCH researchers looked at the amount of physical activity kids did, and the type of play equipment in the home.
Here is what they found:
Four distinct groups were identified:
The right stuff
Higher physical activity wasn’t about having the most play equipment, it was about having access to the right combination of equipment:
"The right stuff."
The kids who were more physically active had access to more fixed equipment (like swings, slides, climbing equipment) and less electronic equipment (such as computers or mobiles).
How can we make environments that support children’s health and development and encourage physical activity?
In addition to bikes and balls, fixed equipment might get kids moving more than portable equipment.
It’s also important to try and limit access to electronics.
If you’re living in an apartment or a property with a smaller yard or can’t afford bigger, fixed play equipment, you can take advantage of parks and community spaces made for kids and families. As city yards get smaller it’s increasingly important for councils and developers to include play spaces for kids that encourage physical activity.
For many, screens have become an essential part of life.
For young children however, excessive screen time can mean missing out on play and exploration that is needed in early development.
The Australian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines were released in 2017. They recommend the following amount of screen time for kids:
The guidelines are a useful tool for parents, but keep in mind that they didn’t exist in 2016-17 when you did the MatCH survey.
The MatCH survey asked mothers:
“Over the past month, about how much screen time has your child had per day on weekdays and weekends?”
Screen time = recreational (non-school related) time spent watching or using tablets, televisions, computers, mobile phones and electronic games.
Our researchers found:
This is the first study of Australian children (aged 0 to 12) to compare screen time against national guidelines.
The purpose of this research was not to shame parents, but to raise awareness of guidelines for screen time.
Screens have become an integral part of daily life. Research is still lacking on how screen time can harm or help children’s development, although we’re planning to look at this in one of our next papers. In the meantime, keeping screen time within the guideline gives children more opportunities to develop their skills through physical activity and creativity.