Today kids have access to more electronic devices than ever before. Between smartphones, game systems, televisions and laptops, kids are spending an average of six to nine hours looking at a screen every day.
That’s a lot of time spent looking at screens. And this habit is dangerous because it could prevent your child from developing their imaginations and getting outside to play.
Although too much screen time can come with several negative effects, parents shouldn’t completely take the screens away. Active screen time also has its benefits.
Therefore, it’s all about finding the right balance. Experts recommend limiting screen time for children between the ages of two and five years old to one hour daily. That limit goes up for older kids.
The key is consistency and finding what works best for your family. Use this quick guide to decide on what’s right for you and your child.
The screen time dilemma
First and foremost, not all screen time is bad. For example, playing active games can give kids physical exercise. Also, many online activities make learning fun and let kids develop new skills.
However, the amount of time and attention that kids are spending looking at screens continues to increase. Research shows that hours upon hours of screen time is starting to make kids stressed out and moody.
Too much screen time can lead to poor reading skills and a lack of social skills too. It also contributes to:
- Behavior issues: Research shows that young kids who have daily screen time of two hours or more are at a higher risk of having attention issues and emotional problems.
- Trouble at school: Having a TV in the bedroom is linked to problems with academic testing.
- Trouble sleeping: Televisions and the screens on computers as well as mobile devices give off a light that interferes with your natural sleep cycle. Too much screen time too close to bedtime can give kids insomnia.
- Unhealthy weight: Staring at that screen takes time away from physical activities. This increases the risk of obesity.
Physical vs. Active Screen Time
Passive screen time can be a problem in large doses. This includes activities that don’t require kids to use their brains or bodies. Examples include watching videos or playing games that don’t require physical activity. This is the type of screen time that can have the most negative effects. It’s the type you might consider limiting for your child.
Active screen time is a different matter. Creative apps, physical games, learning programs and even video chatting with loved ones don’t have the same negative impact. Playing active games gives kids similar effects as other moderate exercise forms. Cognitive screen use lets kids develop creativity and new skills while encouraging participation. It makes learning fun.
Tips for limiting screen time
With screens just about everywhere, you might have a hard time limiting your child’s exposure.
Here are a few tips that may help.
- Don’t just talk the talk: Be a role model for the kind of habits you want your kids to develop.
- Encourage other activities: Create a family game night or daily walk. Think about things you can do together or other activities your child enjoys that don’t involve zoning out in front of a screen.
- Have set times to power down: An hour before bed is ideal for everyone because it helps minimize sleep problems.
- Set tech-free zones: Make the dinner table electronics-free. Or ban devices from other areas that you want to reserve for family time.
- Talk to your kids: If they understand why you’re limiting screen time, it’s easier to get them to cooperate.
- Use parental controls: Block certain channels and websites. Monitor what your kids are watching and viewing online. It’s important to protect them from potentially harmful content.