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New App Reveals How Much Sport, Sleep, and Screen Time Your Kids Need

By Jiri Kaloc

Should you let your kids sleep in or wake them up early? What’s the optimal amount of exercise and screen time they should get? These are tough questions that many parents are asking themselves. And now there’s an app to help! Let’s take a closer look at how did scientists develop this app.

The right combination of activities

Researchers from the University of South Australia set out to find out what combination of activities is optimal for the child’s mental, physical, and academic outcomes. They assessed data on 1,685 children aged 11–12 years, enrolled in the Australian Child Health CheckPoint study. They used a self-reported 24-hour recall tool in which children recalled the activities they did on the previous day. They also gathered data on body fat percentage, psychosocial health, and academic performance of each participant.

The study found that removing 60 minutes of screen time and adding 60 minutes of physical activity results in 4,2 % lower body fat, 2,5 % improved well-being and 0,9 % higher academic performance.

The Healthy-Day-App

To allow parents to make use of their findings, the researchers developed a web app called Healthy-Day-App. This app allows parents to track their children’s activities and predict how changing them could impact their health and grades at school.

“How children use their time can have a big impact on their health, well-being, and productivity. By tracking a child’s current activities over the day, and using the app to adjust these, we can model how any changes are expected to impact on their physical, well-being and academic performance. It’s a quick and easy tool that can predict health and well-being outcomes for children,” said lead author Dorothea Dumuid.

How to use the app?

The app is available online and anyone can give it a try. All you have to do is input a child’s current 24-hour time usage split into 7 categories.

• Sleep
• Screen
• Physical Activity
• Quiet Time (reading, listening to music)
• Passive Transport (using public transport, riding in a car)
• School-Related (including homework)
• Domestic & Self Care (chores, getting ready for school, eating, hygiene)

After that, parents can move sliders to try out various different time reallocations of their choice. The app will show them the expected differences in body fat percentages, psychological health, and academic performance.

“The Healthy-Day-App lets parents, carers and health professionals consider possible changes to a child’s day and predict how this might impact health outcomes. I encourage parents to play around with it–it may just make you reconsider how much screen time your child has in the car, in a café, waiting for an appointment. Try it and see. It may surprise you,” comments Dorothea Dumuid.