Descriptive epidemiology of small screen recreation among Australian adolescents


Dr Louise L Hardy, NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Level 2, Medical Foundation Building K25, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9036 3184; email:


Aim:  To describe the epidemiology of small screen recreation (SSR) that is: television, computer, video, and DVD use among school students aged 11–15 years in New South Wales, Australia.

Methods:  Cross-sectional representative population survey (n = 2750) of 45 primary and 48 secondary schools in rural and urban areas. Self-reported time spent in SSR was categorised according to national guidelines into less than 2 h per day (low users) or 2 or more hours per day (high users).

Results:  Of primary and secondary school students, 53% and 72%, respectively, were high users of SSR. Boys spent significantly more time in SSR and were more likely to be high users of SSR compared with girls. For primary students, rural boys had a higher prevalence of high SSR use than urban boys (odds ratio (OR) 1.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0–3.5), while overweight girls had a higher prevalence than healthy-weight girls (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2–2.8). For secondary students, rural boys had a lower prevalence of high SSR use than urban boys (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3–0.6), and girls from high SES backgrounds had a lower prevalence than girls from low socio-economic status backgrounds (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.3–1.0).

Conclusion:  The majority of school students in New South Wales exceed the national guidelines for SSR. Reducing the time spent in SSR among young people is one potential approach to increasing energy expenditure and reducing adiposity or maintaining a healthy weight. First steps for intervention strategies among school-age children to reduce SSR could include teaching awareness skills and self-monitoring techniques.