AUSSIE children spend more than a full working day watching television every week but they're no longer just watching it on the biggest screen in the house or waiting for it to be broadcast.
A new study from the Australian Communications and Media Authority found children under the age of 14 are increasingly viewing entertainment on tablets, smartphones, and laptops, and ignoring free-to-air broadcasts in favour of pay-TV and online streaming services like Netflix.
And while most parents monitor their children's screen activity, three in 10 allowed their children to watch whatever they wanted unsupervised.
ACMA acting chairman Richard Bean said the survey of more than 1400 parents and guardians was designed to uncover children's changing viewing habits in a "multi-screen environment".
"The ACMA research findings confirm what many of us may have suspected … children are watching screen content on television as well as on-demand on a range of devices and platforms," he said.
The study found Australian children watched 10.6 hours of TV programs, movies, videos and DVDs each week - half an hour less than in 2005, according to ACMA figures.
Only four per cent of children avoided TV altogether, while kids aged under five years of age watched an average of 8.9 hours of TV each week, and tweens viewed more at 12.3 hours of content.
ACMA's findings defied official Health Department guidelines which recommend children watch no TV before the age of three years old, and children under six years watch less than one hour of electronic media each day.
Worryingly, the ACMA study also found only seven in 10 parents monitored or limited their children's TV habits, with 27 per cent allowing children to make their "own decisions" on what they watched.
While children between 10 and 14 years were most likely to be literally left to their own devices, 23 per cent of parents allowed children aged between five and nine years to watch TV without supervision, and 14 per cent did not set rules for children under five years of age.
The study also found children were no longer just viewing cartoons on the family television or relying on free broadcasts.
While the TV set remained the most popular screen, children used an average of 3.2 gadgets to watch entertainment, with tablets proving popular, followed by mobile phones and laptops.
Many kids also abandoned free-to-air TV in favour of Foxtel and streaming services, the research found, with commercial stations losing 33 per cent of their under-14 viewers since 2005.
By comparison, pay-TV grew its youngest audience, aged four years and under, by 47 per cent, and free online content like YouTube videos were watched by 68 per cent of kids under 14.
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