03/08/2011 05:50 BST | Updated 02/10/2011 06:12 BST

Health Fears Sparked Over Childrens' Multi-Screen Viewing

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Parents have been warned of the potential dangers of children watching TV while also using other interactive devices.

University researchers said children were often "multi-screen viewing" - watching TV while at the same time using smartphones, laptops or hand-held gaming devices.

A sedentary lifestyle - linked to spending lots of time watching TV and playing computer games - is thought to increase the risk of obesity and mental health problems, said researchers at Bristol and Loughborough universities.

It is now possible to watch TV 'on demand' via the internet, play computer games on laptops, hand-held devices or mobile phones, keep in contact with friends using text, Facebook, Skype, and MSN, and to do all this concurrently.

Previous studies have not examined if children take part in multi-screen viewing or their reasons for doing so.

The researchers questioned 63 10 to 11-year-olds and found the children enjoyed looking at more than one screen at a time.

They use a second device to fill in breaks during their entertainment, often talking or texting their friends during adverts or while they were waiting for computer games to load.

Dr Russ Jago, from Bristol University's Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, said: "Health campaigns recommend reducing the amount of time children spend watching TV. However, the children in this study often had access to at least five different devices at any one time, and many of these devices were portable.

"This meant that children were able to move the equipment between their bedrooms and family rooms, depending on whether they wanted privacy or company. This suggests that we need to work with families to develop strategies to limit the overall time spent multi-screen viewing wherever it occurs within the home."

The research paper, entitled 'I'm on it 24/7 at the moment: A qualitative examination of multi-screen viewing behaviours among UK 10-11 year olds' has been published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.