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Research reveals Australians are using free time for screen time

Online training can be a more effective use of screentime

New research from OTEN has revealed the most common use of an hour or more of free time for Australians aged between 25 and 50 is in front of a screen, watching TV (92%), using social media (84%) and undertaking other internet-related activities (96%).  Most time spent on social media is done at home (85%), with 43% of Australians connecting through social media while in bed. 

Worryingly, 64% of those surveyed spend less than an hour or no time at all doing physical exercise or playing sport and 42% spend less than an hour or no time at all talking face to face with family and friends each day.  Of greatest concern, two million Australians within the 25 to 50 age bracket spend an hour or more each day worrying or having negative thoughts, which can be debilitating and feed negatively into their personal and family lives.

OTEN, Australia’s largest online and distance educator and specialist online arm of TAFE Western Sydney, commissioned Roy Morgan to undertake research among Australians aged 25 to 50 years old, which was designed to unearth the ways in which they use their free time and address the challenges associated with using it more productively.

Spokesperson for OTEN Craig McCallum said: “OTEN’s research clearly highlights many Australians want to do something more constructive with their free time.  Interestingly, when asked if they had an extra hour a day how they would use it, respondents said they wanted to do more to exercise their bodies and minds as well as putting their gardens and homes in order.

“However, at odds with this is the fact that the majority of Australians are spending an hour or more each day on social media. If we all resolved to reclaim an hour of screen time to upskill, exercise the mind and learn something new, we could effectively re-train the nation.”

Indeed, the results show 54% of Australians aged between 25 to 50 wanted to do more physical exercise, 39% more reading, and 36% more gardening, general maintenance or housework if they could find one hour extra in the day.  Also, one in four respondents said, with an extra hour up their sleeve, they’d be keen to learn a new skill to develop or change their careers. 

When respondents were asked more specifically about their interest in learning a new skill, developing current skills further or undertaking learning opportunities for personal or professional reasons, 87% of respondents said they were either very or fairly interested.

 “What is surprising is the reasons people have given to upskill,” Mr McCallum explained. 

“You would expect the top reasons would be for career advancement, a higher salary, a promotion, or to change or start a new career or even get a job; however these motivations were towards the bottom of the list.  Instead, the top three are: 1) to develop/improve knowledge on area of personal interest (65%); 2) to improve mental health or keep the brain active; and 3) to keep up to date with new skills for purposes of work.”

The OTEN research reveals what people believe to be fundamental truths about studying.  For example, 82% of those surveyed agreed that learning a new work-related skill is important to career advancement.  Also, 81% agreed learning any new significant skill improves mental health.  Nevertheless, 58% of those surveyed said they don’t have enough hours in the day to learn a new skill.

Mr McCallum said online learning was an effective way for Australians to use their free time and their screen time more productively.

“Using time effectively is certainly a habit of successful people, and it’s interesting to see the increase in people choosing to study online whilst working. More than 60% of OTEN students are working either full time or part time throughout the duration of their course.

“If a person who is happy to sit at a computer or smart device and trade in an hour of their screen entertainment for learning online, they could study and achieve a TAFE-recognised Certificate IV qualification in Human Resources in a 12-month period, and, with less than one hour of study each day over two years, they could achieve a Diploma in Travel and Tourism,” explained Mr McCallum.

The most popular courses at OTEN for 2016 are:

  1. Early Childhood Education and Care
  2. Accounting
  3. Business Administration & Bookkeeping
  4. Education Support
  5. Health Services Assistance
  6. Building and Construction
  7. HSC Studies
  8. Property Services (Real Estate Salesperson)
  9. Youth Work & Community Services
  10. Small Business Management

“For the majority of Australians who are wanting to use their screen time effectively, online learning at OTEN provides flexibility and support, allowing individuals to structure their learning around other commitments to gain recognised TAFE qualifications.

“A lack of time is no longer an excuse, because Australians are already spending much of their free time on screen. Whilst screen time can be entertaining, it can also educate and open pathways for new career opportunities,” Mr McCallum said.

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