Kids are spending increasingly larger amounts of time in front of many different screens, and they are even starting at younger ages. The presence of technology in the lives of children is on the rise and the negative effects are alarming. We certainly can’t banish technology, but we can learn about the dangers and control content consumption and screen time.
What Is Considered Screen Time?
All the time spent and activities completed by looking at a screen are considered screen time. This includes watching TV, playing or working on a computer, playing video games, but also using all other tech gadgets like iPads, Android tablets, iPhones, and so on. This all counts as screen time and when added together, it can amount to a total of 7 – 8 hours a day.
Dangers and Negative Consequences
Screen time is considered a lack of physical activity. This leads to physical health issues like upper back pain, spine growth inhibition, poor eyesight, a decrease in muscle mass, and the risk of obesity. Kids tend to eat more when in front of a screen, especially if watching junk food ads. The intake of unhealthy foods high in salt, fat, and sugar has increased as well. Too much screen time also causes anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior, insomnia, and even addiction.
How Much Screen Time Is Safe?
Psychologists are not the only ones discussing this question – experts from the medical profession have also joined them. They say children should not have much screen time at all. Kids under 2 should not have any exposure to screens; kids between 2 and 5 should have one hour a day, and kids aged 5 – 18 should not have more than two hours of screen time a day.
What Can We Do?
There are several things we can do to gain control over screen time: limit interaction to 1 – 2 hours a day, control the time of the day when technology is being used, control the content that is consumed on various devices, separate digital consumption from all other activities, and additionally find replacement activities.
- Limit screen time
Set the rules for 1 to 2 hours of screen time a day. Explain the reasons, reward desired behavior, and punish rule-breaking until discipline is acquired. Reduce second-hand exposure to screens, like living room TV. Be a role model.
- Set the time of the day when screen time is ok
If kids need to use the computer to do homework, then it is ok to use them. You can make it a reward after all the chores and homework is finished. Using tech gadgets causes overstimulation, so doing this will make it hard to go to sleep. You could allow for more screen time on the weekends.
- Monitor content consumption
Not all screen time is a waste; some are actually constructive and conducive to learning. There are many educational games and apps like Fun Brain that help kids practice Math, English, and so on. There are also many videos and channels that kids can learn about the world from, but it is also essential that you monitor what they do and what they watch.
- Separate it from other activities
This means no screen time while eating, talking to people, doing homework, sleeping, visiting, or walking in the street.
- Replace it with other activities
Try to increase physical activities like spending time outside, letting your kids’ take up a hobby or a sport, fly a kite, take them fishing and bird watching, or let them do arts and crafts. You should focus on getting them to socialize with kids in real life and not online.
As long as you know what your kids are consuming and how much screen time is ok, you can relax and maybe even learn something from your tech-savvy little ones.