Helping families manage screen time for better social skills, quality of life and family functioning 

Dr Lauren Arundell's research aims to understand the impact that time spent using a variety of screen devices has on children’s wellbeing.

Children’s screen time has long been a concern for parents – an issue exacerbated by COVID-19 lockdowns, which saw much of our lives shift online.  

Growing evidence shows that excessive screen time is associated with poor physical and psycho-social outcomes. While Australian recommendations specify that children (aged 5-17) should limit daily screen use to less than two hours a day, almost two-thirds (65%) of children aged 5-12 years fail to meet this guideline, with adherence declining as children get older.   

Dr Lauren Arundell’s Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA) aims to understand the impact that time spent using a variety of screen devices has on children’s wellbeing.   

With existing research based on total screen time or TV viewing time, interventions to date have had limited success. In contrast, Dr Arundell is conducting her research in the context of the evolving technology climate, as children are now engaging with a variety of ‘new’ devices.  

Dr Arundell will conduct a series of studies to examine associations between time  spent on different devices and children’s social skills, quality of life and family functioning. 

These studies, along with Dr Arundell’s previous formative research, will provide a foundation for developing strategies that can help parents manage screen time in the home.  

She will then engage with families and stakeholders, using their insight to understand the feasibility and acceptability of suggested strategies.  

“By developing strategies for families with families, there is greater potential for effective behaviour change and positive impacts on social skills, quality of life and family functioning,” Dr Arundell said. 

Dr Arundell will collaborate with Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²) to deliver and test these strategies using their purpose developed InSTIL platform, allowing her to determine the impact of reduced screen time on children’s social skills, quality of life and family functioning.  

“This project will expand our understanding of the impact that specific screen-based behaviours have on children,” she said.  

“This is particularly important as children now engage with a variety of screens which may not have the same associations with wellbeing. By understanding these relationships, we can build purpose designed strategies that help target the screen behaviours that are most important to reduce.”