Research shows that Thai children spend 35 hours per week watching device screens, which is over double the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended limit of 16 hours.

Thai health authorities are concerned over the increase in the number of children becoming addicted to their smartphones, as schools are forced to close during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many parents, however, still have to work, leaving them little choice but to let children spend more time on smartphones, tablets or watching TV at home.

Though the WHO’s report states that play time is a fundamental right of all children, and they should be able to play freely for at least 1-2 hours per day, to develop their skills, ThaiHealth is concerned that the number of screen-addicted children will continue to increase.

Director of the Healthy Child, Youth and Family Promotion Department, of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Nattaya Boonpakdee, said that children under 2 years old are not supposed to use smartphones at all, and parents should get them involved in physical activities instead, to help them develop their muscles. As for children older than 2, parents can let them have screen time of no more than an hour per day, with parental supervision.

Parents are urged, nonetheless, to spend more time at home with their children and engage in activities that families can enjoy together.

Based on a survey by ThaiHealth, 60% of 15,000 childrensampled, aged 6-18, are addicted to online games and spend more than 3 hours per day on them, which puts children at risk of developing aggressive behavior patterns, gambling addictionsand will have negative effects on their mental health.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sirichai Hongsanguansri, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Ramathibodi Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine,revealed that 20% to 30% of Thai children could be considered to be addicted to their screens, and that is very likely to increase in the near future. He said that the addiction is caused by social media, online gaming and online pornography, therefore, parents play a huge role in providing them with an understanding ofhow to use the internet beneficially.

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