University of Southern Queensland has been at the forefront of this issue, with Professor Stuart Biddle among the first to study the impact of this technology on children over 20 years ago.
With mobile devices now ubiquitous, professionals have begun highlighting psychological issues in young people associated with extended screen time. This troubled Ipswich paediatrician, Dr Bob McGregor enough that, upon his retirement, he approached UniSQ about conducting research into the issue.
The ensuing discussion between Dr McGregor and Professor Biddle led to a new research project being undertaken, enabled by a grant from the Ipswich Hospital Foundation, with funds raised from various sources, including donations and support through Dr McGregor’s rotary club. For the Foundation, the public health focus of the project offered an opportunity to expand beyond clinical work into preventative research.
Professor Biddle leads the project, supported by UniSQ colleagues from psychology and the health and medical sciences. The team’s goal is to contribute to the body of research that informs existing screentime guidelines and best practice.
Interviews with around 20 parents of young children from the Ipswich area will be used to track children's use of screens from birth.
“This started by linking with the local community, and it's the best way for research to occur,” Professor Biddle says.
“We talk with them and make sure that we address the right questions. It keeps us grounded. It's a true partnership, and it’s rewarding for everybody.”
The project’s collaborative approach leverages the strengths of clinical staff and researchers to ultimately assist local families.