Screen Time for Children

In today’s world of modern technology, digital screen time has become an inseparable part of children’s lives. Since the earliest age, kids are exposed to technology, growing up surrounded by devices and almost unlimited Internet access. This makes many parents anxious about how much screen time is too much and should they allow screen time altogether.

Digital Technology Opportunities and Dangers

According to a report by UNICEF, the young Internet users are the most connected generation today – children under the age of 18 account for 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide. They use digital media daily to play games, connect with peers, do homework, learn, and discover.

It appears that the benefits and drawbacks of digital media use are tightly intertwined.

Many studies have shown that electronic media can be used to spark creativity and enhance critical thinking skills in children and youth. It can also improve a child’s communication skills, boost their self-esteem, help them learn and develop new skills, and teach them collaboration.

Nevertheless, digital resources bring about many risks too. Studies show that social media use can affect a child’s mental health, causing frequent mood swings and triggering feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and other similar apps can sometimes bring up feelings of loneliness or inadequacy or simply distract children from other things they would like to or should be doing. Also, it is not a secret that digital media use has intensified harms such as cyber bullying, abuse, child pornography, and trafficking.

The Importance of Decreasing Screen Time

Several studies propose the benefits of decreasing screen time exposure for children. In the UK children spend on average 23 hours a week in front of a screen, almost twice as long as spending time with their families. It is so easy for children to lose track of time and get lost in “the feed” with all the photos, interactive games, videos and information swirling around the internet.

Research also finds that spending too much time using electronic media devices is linked to poor grades, not getting enough sleep, a greater risk of obesity, attention problems, hyperactivity, less energy, aggression, and other behavioral issues. additionally, excessive use of electronic media devices can lead to technology addiction.

The Benefits of Limiting Screen Time

A recent study on 1,323 children in the U.S. showed that decreasing of kids’ screen time led to better school performance, improved sleep, less aggression, and decreased body mass index. Excessive use of screen time has also been identified as an indicator of poor adult functioning.

 How much is Too Much?

The NHS’s current recommendations for children under the age of 5 is an hour or less a day. After this age there are no firm recommendations from the health authorities however most experts in this field state that less and 2 hours per day with at least one of those hours being an active rather than passive experience is something we should try to aim for as parents.

How to Limit Screen Time?

Limiting your child’s screen time may seem impossible. However, here are some tips to help reduce your child’s electronic device exposure.

  • Be a Good Model

Children always model behaviors of their parents.  So, set the example by not using your devices excessively. Encourage healthy behaviors by modelling them. Its not only great for your child but hugely beneficial for your own health and wellbeing!

  • Encourage Other Activities

Promote activities such as free play, games, outdoor time, sports, imagination or art activities and often do these things together. Set positive rule of making a family time in the evening’s device-free. Spend time talking or playing board games together instead. Turn off the TV during dinner time and remove phones and tablets during family car rides.

  • No TV in Bedrooms

Remove TV from your kids’ room. If you child needs help to switch off at night a story before bed either with you both reading, or an audio book can help them unwind.

  • Use Screen Time to Spark Creativity and Learning

Encourage your children to use digital technologies to learn and discover. Screen time can be used to boost your child’s digital literacy and spark their interest in science and technology. There are some amazing websites and apps that are hugely beneficial and loads of blogs that explore some of the best…..This is something that Ordinary Magic will be doing very soon too!

Should we put the Emphasis on Nature of Screen Time?

Although the major parental concern is related to placing limits on their child’s device exposure, research shows that it is the online content the kids are engaging with rather than the amount of screen time is what really matters. If you need some down time, that’s ok! Just look for apps and programmes that are engaging and thought provoking as well as entertaining. My child watches David Attenborough programmes, creates worlds in Minecraft Plays Panda Run (a math version of temple run) and uses Squeebles to practice spellings in a fun and engaging way.

Among some of the apps my daughter enjoys are Youtube and Roblox. These are platform/community apps and therefore are open to abuse. Educating your children on the dangers of the internet and setting boundaries such as parental controls, the use of child friendly versions of apps (Youtube has a kids version) and ensuring that your child asks or discusses with you things they are not sure of (Like pressing links) is crucial to ensure they are safe. There are many great websites out there that discuss internet, one of our favorites for parents in the NSPCC online course and information about how safe each site your child uses is. To check it out just click on the link.

Finally, The London School of Economics says that if used reasonably and responsibly, digital media can help bring families together, create happier children and have a positive impact in many aspects of the user’s life. Ordinary Magic agrees with this and believes that if media is used positively it is a powerful tool that can be used to connect not isolate, provoke learning rather than creating passivity and be the perfect platform to create discussion and change.