Image copyright AFP Image caption A map shows how much screen time children consumed
Today’s children receive the same amount of screen time as their parents, but it’s much higher than that in other generations, a study has shown.
The new analysis of 10 millennium epidemics found that children today get an average of 27 hours per week of screen time.
By the second decade of the 21st century, it had more than doubled.
Screen time was most intensively used before the Croup Defunct Syndrome (CDS) pandemic of 1914-18, or the 1918 Spanish flu.
Researchers say the analysis of 10 episodes of large-scale epidemics since the modern introduction of electricity suggests the same time and frequency of web use may have been common in 1918-18 as now.
Online media is an ever-present and essential part of how children engage in society, a senior author of the study told the BBC.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Facebook says 2 billion people use its platform every month
The recent ‘surge’
Prior to 1900, the length of average screen time for a child between 0 and 16 years was about 10 hours. This had jumped to about 20 hours by the middle of the 20th century.
Following the 1998 energy crisis, a surge in the amount of screen time has been felt. From the 1920s, in terms of age, it has increased considerably.
“I personally think screen time is an integral part of education,” Aneille Yearwood, from the Universities of Cardiff and Cambridge told the BBC.
“I think the key, particularly with younger children, is making them aware of how serious the potential harm of excessive media is.
“So I don’t want them getting 14 hours on screen per week and eating chocolate but I also don’t want them eating chocolate.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The most frequent term used to describe mobile phones was portable telephone in 1900
She argues that the average monthly spending in 2015 of newborns in the UK was 683 for the baby boom in the UK, a new data set suggests.
That means children aged 0-6 years of age are now getting 8.62 hours a week of screen time (up 3.2 hours a week from 2012).
From 1999 until 2015, monthly hours were steady at about 800 hours per year (an increase of about 2.3 hours a week).
The study team compared rates of screen time in the children of the last decade of the 20th century with those from the decade preceding, from 1913-1926.
The exact amount of screen time measured in previous epidemics has varied from between 6 and 7 hours.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Fifty-seven percent of those born in 1999 had high or very high rates of screen use in 2000
The first world war and CDS
The proportion of the population watching TV before 10pm also varied from about 0.4% of the UK population in 1914 to 65% of 15-year-olds in 2015.
Such increases in TV and online media use had been noted in both the First World War and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, according to Professor Anne Nelson, from Reading University.
“As this study provides the first evidence in time series data for a period that has been seen as highly significant in history, the analysis adds to the body of evidence that could help us understand what may have been behind this recent surge in screen time.”
This showed that there was no increase between 1997 and 1999. This indicates that “young children probably have a standard of sleep to fall back on,” said Dr Yearwood.