In today’s society, screens are just everywhere. Children are growing up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. It’s difficult to imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.
While digital devices may provide endless hours of entertainment and can offer educational content, however unlimited screen time can do more harm than good especially in growing kids. The concept is under substantial research in relation to development delays in kids too.Before we indulge in decoding the Screen time issue, let’s begin from the basics.
What is Screen time?
“Screen time” is a term used for time spent in front of a device with a screen such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. There are many ongoing researches about the benefits and harmful effects of screen time. If screen time per day is monitored and kept a check upon, then is can for sure be able to work in favor of the growing kid however if it is over-done, then it can lead to some serious behavioral and other developmental delays in kids
What counts as screen time?
It’s a real simple one, The below sedentary activities are counted in the screen time of kids:
- Working on Computer or laptop
- Watching Television
- Using Smartphone /Tablet/iPad
- Playing Video Games
Screen time Facts based on statics
According to a research:
- Adults spend over 11 hours per day interacting with all kinds of screens, which includes the time spent infront of their office systems. Of that 11 hours, approximately 4 hours are spent watching Television.
- Teenagers spend an average of 9 hours per day interacting with digital devices.
- Kids ages 8-12, the survey report found that they spent 5-6 hours per day interacting with devices with screen.
- Kids ages 2-5 spend around 32 hours per week in front of a screen (e.g., watching TV, videos, gaming) i.e. 4.5 hours per day.
Recommended Screen time
Most of the kids learn by exploring and interacting with the world around them. They need to indulge in physical play i.e. run, climb, and swing in the playground and executing creative activities like pretend play, drawing, developing Writing skills, or helping Mommy with Simple Household chores.
Time spent in front of screens (like a TV, tablet, or smartphone) is definitely an opportunity to reinforce learning and promoting educational activities. But too much screen time shall have harmful effects in kids and adults too. Hence, there are standard recommended screen time for all age groups starting from kids of age 0-2 years
- 0-2 years of age
“No Screen-time” for kids below the age of 2 years is the recommendation by the experts and various children development associations around the world. The eyes of the newborn are too delicate to handle the harmful rays emitted from these electronic devices. Hence, No use of digital devices is recommended till the age of 2 years
- Between ages 2 and 5 years
The recommended limit for kids between ages 2 and 5 years is 1 hour or less per day. Use this 1 hour in strategically in showing your kid educational stuff such as phonics, numbers and rhymes.
However, minimization is always the best strategy. There may be an exception to this rule: Video chatting with grandparents or other family and friends. It is considered quality time interacting with others. But keeping a check and control on that time too is a must.
- Kids older than 5 years
Children that are older than 5 years, it’s recommended to minimize the recreational or enjoyment or fun related screen time to two hours or less per day. An excellent way to organize or structure them is to motivate them to earn their screen time ie Use screen time as a reward in return of their good behavior or activities.
For Teenagers the recommended screen time is two hours or less a day as well. But here there is a difference, they necessarily do not need to watch educational or the contents to value adds always. As teens they develop their tastes and preferences and hence they can decide their own set of series ti be watched.However, Strict monitoring is recommended as this is the time when they may get into Not-So-Good addictive content like Porn or violence or destruction.
As said earlier, an adult spends approximately 11 hours a day staring at some kind of screen. It may be a computer, phone, tablet, TV or any other electronic device. For office workers, the office hours of work is unavoidable, but that extra recreational screen time isn’t doing you any good to them. So it’s best for adults to minimize their Extra-screen time(Apart from work) to 1 hour or less.
There are few things which an adult can do to reduce or mitigate some of the harmful effects of his/her screen-time:
- While working on a computer/laptop, look away and at a random distant object for about 20 seconds every 20-30 minutes — set a reminder for the same if necessary
- Take a quick standing or stretch break every hour
- Quick “chair yoga” stretches also helps loosen up the muscles
- Always sit in the right posture while working on computer/laptop.
- Never eat in front of a screen
- Always use digital devices in appropriate light so as to avoid extra strain on eyes.
Harmful consequences of excess screen time
This generation of kids is growing up with smartphones, tablets, and other internet-enabled digital devices.
This has left many parents worried. Whether you are glued to TV or staring at your smartphone 24/7, too much screen time definitely has host of harmful effects on the developing brains of kids.Let’s see what some of the researchs says:
Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight as there is no or very little physical activity to burn the body fat.
Many parents use TV or tablet to end the day with story time before bed. That’s not a good ideas as it may interfere with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia or other sleep related issues.
This problem may happen with all the age groups as digital media is quite influential and go on to influence the behavior of an individual to a great extent.They may intentionally or unintentionally imitate their favorite character/actor which may not be appropriate to their age or society. This may lead to emotional, social, and attention problems.
Its observed that kids who have access to televisions/tablets/phones all the time are worst affected. Their academic performance drops due to the distraction caused by these devices.
This is one of the most rampant harmful effect of digital media.Too much exposure to violent TV shows, movies, and video games can cause children to become insensitive to it. Eventually, they start imitating and using violence to solve problems as they see on TV.
Many physical issues arise due to excessive screen time like pain in fingers, wrist, neck and back.Digital devices inversely affect your eyes and may narrow your eye blood vessels,hence giving rise to various eye-related problems.
Tips to Make Screen-Time Productive
Here are 8 tips that will not only help you limit your child’s screen time but also help to make it as productive as possible.
- Set an example for Healthy digital Use
It’s important to role model healthy electronics use for our kids.So before you get glued to your favorite Netflix series, remember to set a good example. Habits like turning on TV all the time in the background or scrolling through our smartphone frequently shall set bad examples of screen time for your kids.
- Be with young kids during screen time and interact with them.
This is true in the case of toddlers and teenagers too. It means playing educational games with your child or watching and interacting about something you see together in an age-appropriate TV show or video
- Educate Yourself on Digital Devices
Today’s children are very tech-savvy. Most of them know more about technology than the parents do. That’s why its really important to stay up-to-date on the latest apps or social media trends.
Always remember you can’t teach your child about the risks of social media unless you yourself don’t understand them.
- Incorporate a lots of Physical play in your Child’s schedule
Physical play compromises of any kind of play whether structured or unstructured which is non-screen time in nature. Family meals and bedtimes are also important times to put the screens aside and interact with your kid.
- Establish Family rules with digital devices : It’s important for you to set healthy screen-time limits for the sake of your child’s appropriate development.
Here are a few family rules you might want to establish to reduce screen time:
- No digital devices during family meals.
- No screen time in the car.
- No screens allowed in bedrooms.
- No screen-time during family get-together
- Create “Screen-Free Zones” and unplug all devices one in a while.
Create areas in your house where electronic devices should not be used like smartphones and laptops.For example,dining room can be a great screen-free zone that can be reserved for meals and family conversation and discussions.
Also one in a while unplug all electronic devices in the house so that the use of screen is curbed. For example, time before bedtime can be a great time to shut the devices as the entire family can spend some quality time together.
- Use Parental Control
You can protect your kids from explicit content on TV and online by using parental control. It allows you to monitor what your children are viewing on TV and what they’re doing online.
- Make Screen Time a Privilege
Screen time should be a privilege and not a right. Take away privileges, such as TV time or computer use, as a negative consequence. Once you’ve set a limit on how much screen time is allowed, don’t allow kids to earn extra time as a reward. Instead, stick to the daily limit and offer other free or low-cost rewards.