Modern children’s use of the internet, social networks, online games and other digital instruments seems to grow continuously. The absence of any electronic devices or social media accounts is more often the exception than the rule today.
Sometimes it feels like tablets and smartphones have replaced our children’s playmates, babysitters, and teachers. Screen time issues are making the news. And it’s no wonder that many parents are concerned about their kids’ everyday screen time quantities. The problem becomes even more complicated as where we used to have only one or two screens to worry about (a TV set and family computer), now a lot more screens have become a regular part of our children’s everyday life.
Screen time controversies
At the same time, adults often have a hard time figuring out just how much screen time is OK for their children. Some believe that the whole issue is just a needless moral panic, while others are sure that the whole family might need some form of digital detox from time to time.
For example, Apple’s top manager wants to protect his nephew from using social networks and ( to just add more confusion to the topic) one of Facebook’s founders recently made comments about social media’s influence on children’s brains and social skills. One way or another it’s become pretty hard to figure out how much screen time is too much and how much is actually OK for our kids.
Screen time dangers
Despite their many differences of opinion and approach, many of those who are concerned about their children’s screen time would probably agree that managing screen time gets more and more difficult as children get older.
According to the Ofcom report, between 1/4 and 1/3 of all parents are concerned about their child’s mobile device usage. Contact with potentially dangerous people and fear that their child could be bullied through the phone or social media are among parents main concerns. Of course, the amount of screen time they get is also on the list.
Parents also worry about some other specific areas.
- Kids’ internet/computer game addiction. Many kids and teens appreciate their gaming experience more than school, and the time they spend at the screen definitely affects their personality. And as soon as addiction is developed and established it is quite hard to break it.
- Too much screen time may lead to sleep disorders. And this may affect other areas of child’s development like motor skills. The youngest ones are the most vulnerable to this.
- Mental health problems as a result of uncontrolled screen time and particular applications affect.
- Many parents, even those who do not see the dangers of screen time, are concerned about the quality of content the kids have access to using their mobile devices. Different studies show that children are very vulnerable to pornography, internet ads and other explicit content. Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets give them this access at quite an early age.
- American Academy of Pediatrics found that children’s creativity grows as you take electronic devices away from them.
- The cost of too much screen time can be losing important social skills by the children.
- Obviously, too much screen time reduces kids’ outside activities.
But despite all the possible negative effect of kids having an extensive access to technology we cannot neglect the fact that it is deeply integrated into their life and changes it in many ways. Some of these changes are for good.
Educational development. Technology is a new and effective instrument of engaging kids more in their learning. It can completely change the way they study and make it more effective and fun.
Mobile phones and tablets make it easier for children to contact their parents in the case of emergency. Adults may call their child any time to check if they’re safe and sound.
Technology helps kids and teens to widen their life horizons. The use of Internet gives them an opportunity to express themselves and share their talents with thousands of people in social media and to make friends all over the world.
How to calculate the right amount of screen time and how much screen time is too much?
If you are looking for an exact equation probably there is no one. Since every child and every situation is unique there isn’t a simple answer to the question how much screen time is too much. But there are some hints that may help us. When thinking about the right amount of screen time for our children we should take into account:
- Child’s age – healthy screen time recommendations are different for different age groups;
- Child’s general maturity and ability to control their emotions and desires – the more self-disciplined the child is the less controlling we might be. This well-known rule is fully applicable to screen time area;
- Other areas of child’s life and screen time affecting them – children should develop harmonically and screen time should not take too big share of kid’s life. One thing is letting the child play a video game after doing homework and spending some time outdoors with friends, and another is letting him play the same video game instead of that;
- Child’s screen time preferences and screen time quality – screen time amount should depend on either the child spends time with an educational app or plays some shooting video filled with violence
Do not be afraid that kids will miss a lot in modern life if we limit their access to new technologies. It does have its part in today’s people life, and we cannot but introduce it to kids. But children still learn a lot about today’s world playing with their friends and family and using the “good old” tools their parents have used like books and Lego constructors.
How can we minimize the negative effect of screen time on our kids?
- Limit the screen time. We have a lot of ways to do this like establishing and modeling screen time rules in the house or using parental control software.
- Use some healthy screen time alternatives. You can play real (I mean ‘board’) games with your kids instead of letting them play computer ones. Or have some outdoor fun. The fact: the more you play with your kids the more they are interested in physical play.
- Spend time with your kids. This will not only improve and strengthen your relations but will improve kids’ social skills and empathy.
Let’s remember that it’s not only the quantity of screen time that matters but screen time quality as well. And it’s our responsibility as parents to navigate our children through the world of modern technologies.
How much screen time is too much for your child and how much is ok? Share your opinion with us.