As we speed ever further into the 21st century, two things are abundantly clear: technology is king, and kids just love to lap it up.
‘Screen time’ – in the form of TV, digital devices, video games and even educational tools – is occupying the hours of children as young as infants. And as those kids get older, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to prise the devices from their hands – and rightly worrying about how much screen time is just too much.
One survey showed that 80% of all toddlers watch shows and play games on screens – and that an even higher percentage of parents freely give their own phone to their kids to keep them happy.
By the age of 5, one in two children have their very own digital device – and that stat climbs higher and higher as the years advance.
Question: Should your kids have any ‘screen time’?
The answer is yes. While some parents try to ban all screen time, there’s no denying the digital era we live in nor the various benefits of it.
Among those benefits are allowing children to make their own choices with their personal time, developing their hand-eye coordination, participating in educational or fun interactive games and tools, and actually getting active with devices such as the Wii.
But it’s not all fun and games.
The Australian Government has warned that excessive screen time can delay the development of language and social skills, affect sleep, cause obesity, affect vision and stifle creativity.
The answer seems to be parental monitoring and involvement, with Australia’s official Physical Activity Recommendation advising no more than 2 hours of screen time for kids aged 5-18, and as little as possible for those younger.
Still not convinced? Here are some more reasons why parents should monitor their kids’ screen time:
Studies have shown that excessive screen time – whether phones, computers, TVs or tablets – can increase the prevalence of anxiety, depression and ADHD in kids.
Limiting screen time will mean kids seek some of the highly beneficial alternatives, like reading, playing outside, and engaging in social interactions.
Some experts think kids become actually addicted to the things they do on their screens. Research has shown that the front of the young brain is stimulated in exactly the same way as occurs in adults addicted to illicit drugs, porn or gambling.
When not on a screen, ‘addicted’ kids can perceive ‘normal life’ as boring, and social interactions as undesirable.
If a child is on a screen, they’re probably not being active. But non-screen games, sports, arts and creative play can all not only get the heart pumping, but contribute to the development of a well-rounded, happy, intelligent and healthy child.
There’s no doubt about it: kids learn and develop almost exclusively through their eyes. But recent studies have found that several hours of screen-time per day triples the risk of vision problems like myopia or short-sightedness in young eyes.
If not identified quickly enough, vision problems can severely affect a child’s development, leading to a range of social and cognitive problems that can be lasting. The really alarming thing is that the damage may already have been done without you or even your child knowing it.
The good news is that in most cases, glasses or contact lenses are an easy fix. Many parents believe glasses are the only option for correcting their child’s vision, not realizing that they can inexpensively buy contact lenses online and even teach their children to care for their own online contacts lenses in time.
We all know the internet can be a dangerous place, so it’s particularly alarming to learn that many parents give their kids unfettered online access.
In fact, parents need to tread a fine line between allowing their children the freedom to explore and indulge in the benefits of positive screen time, and closely monitoring what they’re doing so they don’t come across dangerous people and materials.
Some parents think that if they simply take away their kid’s devices before they go to bed, they’re not going to waste precious sleeping hours swiping and clicking.
But it’s been shown that exposure to electronic screens and light before bedtime can severely affect the quality of that child’s sleep – and just one knock-on effect of that is that tired children do not learn as well at school the next day.
While there are some devices like the Wii that involve physical activity, most ‘screen time’ is dead time in terms of getting those little hearts pumping.
Childhood obesity is a problem that is growing just as fast as excessive screen time – and not just because snacking is much easier for kids to do when they’re idle. The Wii may be fun, but there’s no comparison to riding a bike, climbing a tree or jumping on a trampoline.
Parents must limit their child’s screen time
While iPads, Xboxes and Minecraft seem like all fun and games, too much of anything will spoil the benefits and open the door to plenty of potential harm. By limiting screen time, parents are doing their best to foster a healthy balance for their kids, so they can grow up smart, happy and healthy.