I’m really delighted to be here at the Capital Hill Child Care Centre with Professor Tony Okely from the University of Wollongong.
Tony is one of the world’s leading early childhood development experts, trained in Australia but with international experience and he’s been co-leading an international team with Canada on developing the best 24 hour movement guidelines.
We look around here and this is about young children learning, being engaged, developing motor skills, learning to engage with each other. That’s what early childhood development is about. These guidelines are just that.
They recognise parenting is hard. None of us get it right all the time and every day there are challenges. And I know as a dad at 3AM with a little three month old on the shoulder, trying to get her to sleep, it can be incredibly hard.
And for mums and dads, there’s no easy way forward. But the guidelines which Australia has developed and is co-releasing with Canada are the best guide we can to give our parents choice and information, choice and information.
And these movement guidelines say very simply that we need a balance of sleep, we need a balance of active play, we need a balance of quieter play and we need to minimise screen time for under fives.
There are no hard and fast rules, but this is about getting it right as often as possible for as many people as possible. And parenting is hard. It’s about information and then when guidelines meet reality it’s always hard.
So they’re the best advice from the best experts, but they always have to be tailored against the reality of families. I think, Tony, it’s fair to say that if you break it into three groups of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, the sleep guidelines are, depending on the age, between 12 and 17 hours, between 11 and 14 hours and between 10 and 13 hours.
Then, as much as three hours a day of active play is critical, yet never universal, and it may not always be possible, but these are the best guidelines and each parent will tailor his or her circumstances to the needs of their children.
But it’s a great start in life, it’s a great foundation for active children and it’s a great basis for an engaged community.
So I am delighted to officially launch the guidelines for growth and development for your child and to invite Professor Okely.
PROFESSOR ANTHONY OKELY:
Thank you. These guidelines are significant in that they provide for the first time, guidance for the three behaviours. Up to now, we’ve been silent on particular sleep and sedentary time.
And there’s an acknowledgment that the whole day matters, that we can be physically active, but if we’re compromising our sleep or spending too much time with screen-based entertainment, then that’s going to compromise our health.
And so we need to acknowledge that these three behaviours in conjunction with one another all help to optimise the development and learning of young children. And it’s important to acknowledge that we’ve done the best literature searches to be able put together the evidence to support these guidelines.
We’ve taken into account also what parents and other stakeholders have told us, and we’ve constructed in combination with Canada, what we think is the most appropriate evidence-based guidance for physical activity, screen time and other sedentary behaviours such as sitting and sleep as well.
I’m happy to take any questions on the guidelines and after that, any other matters.
A question for both of you. How strongly do you endorse the screen time recommendations? I think for under-twos it was none at all and what would you say to parents who are using an iPad or the TV as a babysitter, acknowledging that they are extremely busy these days?
Yes. It’s important to differentiate between how we, with entertainment like that, whether we consume it, the content, or whether we actually create it.
And the guidelines are quite clear, if we’re using that actual entertainment to consume the content it’s very much the same as television or video use.
And we have very clear evidence to suggest that that’s not good for a whole range of health and development outcomes; whether it be cognitive development, psychosocial health, adiposity, or motor development.
So, if it’s being used to consume content, then I think we’re sitting on very firm ground to be able to state that the current guidelines of nothing under the age of two, or one hour between two and five would work.
When it comes to creating the content, so using it to problem solve, using it to help children make meaning of their world, then we just don’t have the evidence at this stage, because most of these technologies are quite new.
So we don’t have the evidence to be able to support whether we needed to modify or change the guidelines as such.
And it is important to note that these guidelines are entirely consistent with the American Academy of Paediatrics, who updated their statement on media use for young children 12 months ago.
And they reaffirmed that the evidence for nothing under the age of two, or one hour for two-to-five stands, despite what the use is of that media.
Can you just expand a little bit on some of the outcomes for children under two if they do have too much screen time?
Yeah, certainly the fast and quick transitions that we see on screens, the bright flashing lights and the impact that that has on the developing brain is something that we need to be mindful of.
Also, how it might limit or minimise communication or language development among young children as well, because it’s taking the place of conversations that might happen.
So I’m a deep believer that parents are parents, that only parents should try to be the parents of children, and our job is to provide the best information and the best guidelines.
And this is the best advice of not just Australian experts, but international experts from the United States and Canada, and I think one of the things Tony was talking to me about is that the World Health Organisation is looking at adopting the Australian and Canadian movement guidelines.
So, we have to always deal with the reality of day-to-day life, and so what we’re saying here is that it’s best to minimise the passive screen time and it’s best to increase the active playtime.
What is the best advice, I guess, getting toddlers active and the things and type of activities they should be doing?
Yeah, anything where they can spend time outdoors is a good proxy for them being physically active, so trying to encourage them to spend time outdoors.
Anything that involves them moving and interacting with their environment and learning about their environment through movement, physical activity provides a great opportunity for that.
It provides a great opportunity to develop social skills, communication, help them understand the world around them, and so I think any activity that involves moving from one place to another.
So it can be moving to music, it can be playing with balls or other games, it can be things like we see around us here in high quality early childhood care environments.
So you’d say the sandpit and the slide better than the screen.
Minister, just on the sitting being delayed in Parliament. Why wasn’t there other business Government could have dealt with in the Lower House during that period?
Look, the position is very clear, and that is that the Senate will do its work and then we will do our work, and we will sit as long as it takes, as long as it takes.
And whether that means an extra week, an extra two weeks, through Christmas, through Boxing Day or the New Year, we’ll be here until our work is done. So, the order of business, given the priorities, Senate first, then the House, and the House will sit as long as it takes.
There was nothing you could have done in the week that was already scheduled, and then got to same-sex marriage the next week?
Look, I think what you’ll find is that there is of course always within the House of Representatives two chambers operating, and so the second chamber will operate.
And we may well be here for not just an extra week, we might be here for an extra two or an extra three weeks. So, there will be plenty of Parliamentary time allocated.
It’s just about getting the sequencing right, and that is the Senate will do its work then we’ll do our work, and we will stay as long as it takes, whether it’s to Christmas, Boxing Day, or the New Year.
Just on the income tax cuts that the Prime Minister’s flagged. Can Australia afford (inaudible)?
Well, I think we can afford to make steps that make life easier for Australians. What matters to Australian families?
One, good parenting and the ability for parents to give their children a future. Two, lower cost of living, and that comes in two ways.
That comes from reducing the impact on electricity and private health insurance, of historic bad policies, and related to that is more money in the pocket through income tax cuts.
So we have to work to ensure that Australian families in the end have the ability to meet the needs of their children.
And three, jobs, giving people the access to better, real wages and better employment options. That’s Australia’s great tasks at the domestic level in a nutshell, along with national security.
Minister, there was a report this morning that the Coalition MP was threatening to quit the Government unless Malcolm Turnbull was replaced as the Prime Minister. Have you heard any of those reports? Has anyone come to you about their concerns?
No, nobody’s come to me on that topic, and it feels rather far-fetched.
Okay. Do you have a message to anyone who might be thinking about it?
Our message is very clear, and that is we went to the Australian people with a message of commitment on families, cost of living, real wages, employment, and national security, and that’s our deep, profound task and that’s our daily job.
And there are always ups and downs in life, and as you discover here, none of us always get everything that we want. But together, we are much, much stronger.
Okay, thank you very much.