Does your Out of School Hours Care (OHSC) have a screen time policy?

A recent Australian study found that physical activity and screen time practices in Out of School Hours Care (OHSC) services are currently very variable and differ widely between services.

Physical activity and screen time in OHSC

In Australia, approximately 1 in 10 school-aged children attend formal before- and after-school childcare services, also known as “out of school hours care” (OSHC).

Children typically attend these services due to their parents’ or guardians’ work or study commitments, and the services set out to provide children with supervised recreational and leisure activities. There are relatively few studies, either within Australia or internationally, that have examined children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviours in the out of school childcare context.

The OHSC services of this study were selected to provide as best a cross-section as possible, based on the ‘Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage’* (ICSEA) rating. Active games were reported in 62% of the participating services. However, sedentary behaviours were also common, with 37% of centres using screen-time for a large proportion of the session.

The study involved interviews with the centre’s directors and also observations of over 1000 children in 23 randomly* selected OHSC services (in Adelaide). The interviews revealed that there was a lack of formal policy at most centres on either screen time or time spent in physical activity. For example, screen time varied between 0% and 41% of the time children spent in care in the OHSC services studied. The authors concluded that the development of guidelines, policy and intervention programs may help improve physical activity and screen time in the OSHC setting.

One of the studies more important conclusions was that Out of School Hours Care had a great opportunity to impact positively on the daily activity patterns of children, especially in relation to physical activity and screen time that could last their lifetime.

The Report by Maher, C., et al 2019. can be found at BMC Paediatrics