Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?
Growing up, children emulate adults around them – this is no secret. In a hyper-connected world where adults seem to always be hooked to their computer and smart-device screens, it is only natural that children will demand their share of screen-time too. Often, busy parents hand over their laptops, tablets or smartphones to their children to keep them preoccupied and out of their way. Children have grown so attached to these devices that parents have now begun to use screen time as a reward or incentive for good behavior. Parenting experts are against this practice of using devices to bribe children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is against exposing children below 18 months to any kind of device usage. They may be permitted to use these devices beyond this age but only under parental supervision to consume content tailored for their age. Children in the 2-5 age group should not ideally have more than an hour of screen time per day. These precautionary rules are in place to keep these devices from hampering a child’s mental development.
Compared to televisions, hand-held devices are portable, allowing for their use everywhere. Studies have shown that too much TV viewing is linked to delays in language, cognitive skills and social skills in young children. Conventional wisdom perceives tablet and smartphone use with the same reservations that it holds for video game and television usage for children. The part that does not quite apply here is that tablet and smartphone interaction is much less passive than television viewing.
Balance Screen Time
Some tips to balance screen time in your family:
- If you choose to allow your children to use tablets and smartphones, ensure that they do not carry them to their bedrooms. Sleep is of utmost importance for a growing child and screen time can negatively impact sleep for children. Turn off screens an hour before bedtime.
- If children take these devices to school, they must understand and abide by their school policy regarding the use of such devices.
- Encourage children to put down their smart devices after a sustained period of using them and challenge them to move around a little. Sitting or lying down for very long cultivates a sedentary lifestyle which is not conducive for a child’s growth and development.
- Ask children to exercise caution with their devices when participating in activities that require their full attention. Parents can model this behavior by putting their smartphones away when attending events with their children.
- Plan regular family time with no smart devices allowed. Turn off phones during meals, engage one another in conversation, go outside for a walk, play a board game, etc.
Links to other helpful articles:
Media and Young Minds: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162591
How Blue Light Affects Kids & Sleep: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep
Need more help?
The therapists at Agor Behavioral Health Services are available to assist families who need help developing strategies for sensible screen use . Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment by calling 630-621-5824.