Too much screen time for kids can harm their physical, mental, and social development. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to tell how much screen time is too much. Most parents look at the number of hours children spend with screens each day and take that as a rough guide. So to make sure your kids are playing a few hours of screen time as possible, you need to know what types of screens they’re using and how long they’re spending.
The number of time kids spends with TV, movies, and video games have increased significantly over the past few decades. It’s become much easier to track this with the advent of smartphones and tablets. Since you’re likely to be more aware of your kids’ screen time habits than you were a few years ago, it’s easier for you to tell when your child’s screen time has become too much.
What Is Screen Time?
Screen time is any media, whether an app on your phone or a TV show you’re watching. It’s just a general term for any device that uses electricity and has a screen—a computer monitor, tablet, game console, phone. Anything that uses electricity and has a screen counts as “screen time.” There are two types of screen time: passive and interactive.
- Passive screen time is any media that requires very little interaction or engagement from the child. This includes watching TV or a movie or even playing video games yourself.
- Interactive screen time requires kids to play with their devices as they use them actively. This includes any game or app on an electronic device that requires you to move the device around and touch it in different places to make something happen on the screen.
How Much Screen Time For Kids?
Screen time recommendations vary depending on kids’ age, overall health and development, ability to focus on what they’re doing, and other factors. The screen time recommended for children falls between zero and two hours per day. Often this is set at one hour per day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 2 have no screen time. For children ages 2 and 5, they recommend one hour per day. For those aged 6-12, they recommend two hours per day. And teens aged 13+ should be limited to three hours a day. This applies to televisions, computers, tablets, and phones.
The Negative Consequences of Excessive Screen Time
Too much screen time for kids increases the risk of the child developing a mental health condition, in particular, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD ). It can also increase their chances of developing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Other adverse effects of increased screen time include:
- Poor Eye Sight – More and more parents report that children have trouble focusing on things because they spend so much time staring at screens. This is causing poor vision in some toddlers who spend hours staring at TV shows and cartoons on tablets.
- Lack of Emotional Control – Many children are becoming more prone to outbursts at home and school because they have become too accustomed to watching violent and aggressive behavior in video games and TV.
- Poor Physical Health – Long hours of screen time can often leave kids feeling tired, lethargic, and sluggish. The lack of physical exercise will also diminish their physical health, lowering their immune system. This increases the risk of developing many illnesses and conditions, particularly obesity.
- Low Self-Esteem – Young people are particularly susceptible to the negative influence of social media. Most social media sites are filled with mean-spirited comments, and kids who spend too much time on these sites can often develop low self-esteem and poor body image.
- Lack of Family Time – Kids who spend too much time with screens and electronics tend to develop poor social skills and lose out on family time, significantly contributing to their overall psychological development.
Benefits of Screen Time
Screen time is not all bad. It can be beneficial in teaching children new skills and providing them with entertainment. The guidelines below will help you make sure screen time allows your child to experience its benefits while avoiding its negative aspects.
1. Enhance creative and imaginative skills – This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons to let your child have some screen time. Many online games, apps, and shows are great for developing creative and imaginative skills.
- Board games: teach kids how to think strategically and solve problems.
- Logic games: develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and memory skills.
- Educational games: teach kids new skills and concepts while also helping them become better at math and reading.
2. Learn new things – Watching a show or playing an app will help your child learn new and interesting things. This is why some parents report that their kids have become better at foreign languages, science, history, geography, math, and writing.
3. Practice social skills – Many children develop social skills by interacting with their friends through mobile devices.
Digital Devices Can Harm Family Relationships
It’s not just kids who can be affected by the amount of screen time you’re giving them. It’s also possible that the way you use your phone or tablet will impact your family’s relationships. Parents are spending more and more time on their phones, checking texts, emails, and social media. This leaves them with less time to spend with their children, leading to more conflict between parents and kids.
The effects of excessive screen time for kids will vary depending on the amount, the frequency, and the type of media consumed. However, it can have a negative impact on all aspects of your child’s development. This leads to screen addiction in kids.
A lot of children are becoming more and more addicted to their screens. This is because they spend too much time on them, and the media they consume is often full of violence, sex, and other things that can encourage addiction.
Tips On How To Limit Too Much Screen Time for Kids
The internet, games, and apps are all very addictive. However, you can help your child avoid screen addiction by limiting their screen time to reasonable levels as follows:
1. Refrain from letting your child use their devices before bedtime.
This helps them get a better night’s sleep and prevents any negative effects of too much screen time in the evening.
2. Encourage exercise.
The best way to counteract hours of screen time is to make sure your child gets enough physical activity. Suggest that they walk or run around the neighborhood with a parent (if they are old enough), play outdoors in a park or backyard, and participate in sports or other physically challenging activities.
3. Set limits on screen time.
You can do this by limiting screens such as televisions, tablets, and video games to one hour a day for children under 2 and two hours a day for those ages 2 and 5. For kids ages 6-12, limit screens to two hours a day. And set a maximum of three hours of screen time for teens aged 13+. If you prefer to monitor your children’s screen time yourselves, you can do so by putting a timer on them or asking them to write down how long they have spent on their phones or tablets during the hour before bedtime or in the morning.
4. Prevent your child from spending too much time on social media.
This is a great way to limit excessive screen time, though it requires monitoring and supervision on your part. Set daily limits on how much time they are allowed to spend using social media. You can do this by asking them to log into social media accounts only once a day, and once they log in, you’ll need to look at their activity tab to see how many minutes they spent each day. For example, if you are setting limits at 2 hours of screen time for teens aged 13+, set these limits for teens aged 12-14 instead.
5. Control what your child watches.
Suggest that your child watch less violent and inappropriate content online, including TV shows and movies that include nudity or sexual themes.
Be consistent with your rules for using electronics in the household. It’s all up to you to set the rules and reinforce them. In the long run, the more consistent you are, the better your kids will understand the rules.
Screen addiction can affect the child and all family members, particularly parents. Parents should be aware of the amount of time they spend on their phones and make it a point to set limits for themselves and the kids.
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