PANEL: Risks and benefits for physical development

Professor Leon Straker

Children’s screen use and development of muscles, bones and motor coordination

Leon Straker is John Curtin Distinguished Professor at the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science at Curtin University. He is a highly successful researcher who has published over 270 peer-reviewed journal articles and his work has been cited over 11,000 time in other research Prof Straker has been working professionally with children since 1982, and has been especially interested in the potential impacts of increased screen technology use since the late 1990s. Over these past 20 years he has lead numerous research projects that have focussed on the physical impacts of screen use by children. These projects have examined: TV, computer, electronic game and mobile touch screen device (tablets/smart phones) use and links with: posture, muscle activity, bone development, movement, physical activity, coordination, adiposity, energy expenditure, heart rate, and breathing rate in children from 3 years of age upwards. In terms of research outputs in the area he is ranked #1 in Australia and #6 globally for publications on ‘children’ and ‘technology’.

Over the last few years he has been working with organisations such as ACCM to provide high quality information to assist parents, health and education professionals and others interested in the well-being of children. For example, in 2018 he co-authored Early Childhood Australia’s Statement on Young Children and Digital Technologies as a guide for early childhood educators and content for the Raising Children Network parenting website.

Prof Straker is also the Scientific Director of the longitudinal Raine Study which has been following over 1,000 families for almost 30 years. He has degrees in Physiotherapy, Ergonomics/Human Factors and Occupational Medicine.. He has been chief investigator on research grants worth over $18 million, has received ‘lifetime achievement awards for research from the Australian Physiotherapy Association and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Association of Australia, and has presented invited keynote addresses at over 30 national/international scientific conferences.

Dr Kathy Chapman

Food ads and weight

Kathy has significant expertise in the issue of food marketing to children. She has been responsible for a range of strategic research projects to underpin advocacy efforts around the reduction of food marketing directed at children. This has involved measuring the extent and nature of food marketing directed at children across a variety of media, including television, internet, magazines and point of sale. This research has produced more than 70 academic publications, plus has been used in advocacy work in a variety of government submissions and inquiries, and has been reported on in the media.

Dr Kathy Chapman is presently CEO of Down Syndrome NSW, and has conjoint appoints with the University of Sydney and University of Newcastle. Kathy previously worked at Cancer Council NSW as Director of Cancer Programs, where she was responsible for prevention programs; support programs and services for people affected by cancer; and advocacy and government relations. Kathy chaired the Cancer Council Australia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, and was part of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance.

Professor Sarah Blunden

The impact of media on children’s sleep

Professor Sarah Blunden (MAPS, FCCLP, BAPsych (Hons), MSocSc, PhD) has a dual role as an academic and a clinical psychologist. She is Head of Paediatric Sleep Research and the Founder/Director of the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep and the Paediatric Sleep Clinic ( where she practices as clinical psychologist in private practice specialising in the treatment of sleep problems.

Her areas of research interest are the relationships between sleep and mental and physical health, sleep education for schools, communities, families and psychologists, behavioural sleep interventions and indigenous sleep health.

Sarah is also chair of the Indigenous Sleep Working Party of the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA) which aims to promote awareness of the importance of sleep in indigenous populations.

She is the elected paediatric representative of the (ASA) Education committee, and chair of the Sleep Guidelines working party of the ASA, has written infant and toddler sleep intervention training programs for psychologists, is an advisor to the Australian Psychological Society on sleep training for psychologists and also for the Australian Fatherhood consortium.

Sarah has presented over 70 conference presentations and published over 100 academic papers and books including The Sensible Sleep Solution for infants and the Boss of My sleep Book for Toddlers, which present a responsive method behavioural sleep intervention.

Dr Alison Chiu

Computer vision syndrome and children

Dr Alison Chiu is an Ophthalmic Surgeon. She works both in private practice and is a Visiting Medical Officer at 2 Public Hospitals. In addition she is a co-supervisor of registrar training, examiner for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), and sits on the executive committee of the NSW branch of RANZCO. Dr Chiu has previously been a lecturer and tutor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney and currently a conjoint lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW.

Dr Alison Chiu completed her medical degree with Honours at the University of Sydney. She also completed a Bachelor or Medical Science and following a dedicated research year, graduated with First Class Honours. Subsequent to surgical and medical registrar training positions, her ophthalmology training was undertaken at Sydney Eye Hospital, with further subspecialty Fellowship training including an academic qualification in Refractive Surgery. Dr Chiu has completed a PhD from the University of Sydney, supported by prestigious scholarships at University College London and Cambridge University. Alison has presented research papers at national and international scientific meetings, published papers in the peer-reviewed literature and contributed a book chapter for Oxford University Press. Over her career, she has received numerous scholarships and awards for international conference presentations.