In a 2015 survey, 49% of parents in the UK “tended to agree” that screens provided a good distraction for their kids when they were busy. But is that a smart option? Well, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) seems to think it’s the opposite.
It’s no secret that nowadays children and screens are inseparable. No matter where you go, you’ll see children on their phones, laptops, tabs and TVs and it would make you wonder: How much screen time would be safe for my kids?
You see, most of our mental developments occur in the very first few years of our life. So allowing children have excessive use of screens can cause major problems in their cognitive and social development. That’s because children learn by engaging their senses and screen time often decreases the chance of getting that opportunity so that’s why many children fail to get that golden opportunity at the right time in their life.
But it’s not just toddlers or children that are at great risk due to excessive screen time; teens are also suffering. A recent study has linked depressions in teens mostly due to excessive screen time.
With this in mind, it’s absolutely important for parents to monitor the screen time of their kids and lay out some basic ground rules about what and how much is okay.
How Much Screen Time is Safe for Kids?
In this regard, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued the following recommendations:
- No screen time should be allowed for kids less than 18 months of age except video calling with their family. Children in this age learn through physical activity, which is why they should be provided maximum opportunities for that.
- For children aged 18–24 months, parents should introduce high-quality screen time that increases and enhances their child’s learning. It’s important that parents watch this screen time with their children and use it towards their children’s learning and brain development.
- From 2–5 years, children should be allowed an hour of media use on a daily basis with the vital element of Parental supervision.
- From the age of 6 and onwards, parents should enforce a reasonable daily limit for screen time. It would also be useful to create media-free zones and times in the house.
You might have noticed that after 6 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend a specific daily screen time limit. That’s because every child is different so a recommendation may work for one but may not work for the other. As a parent, you should ensure that your child’s screen time isn’t disturbing his or her homework, physical activity and real-life interactions. As long as that’s not an issue, it’s okay to let your child have a reasonable amount of screen time.
If you still need help, you can use this tool by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for creating your personalized Family Media Use Plan.
The Quality of Screen Time:
Screen time for kids shouldn’t just be measured in terms of quantity but also in the terms of its quality. Understand that not all screen times are created equal. A violent video game makes for low-quality screen time while an interactive game that stimulates cognitive development in your child is an example of high-quality screen time. With that said, if you’re able to make your child enjoy a very high-quality screen time, then that will be a major plus for both you and your kid.
Remember to supervise all the screen time for your kids and to vocally appreciate them for their high-quality screen usage.
Effects of Excessive Screen Time for Kids:
Excessive screen time can cause a lot of behavioral and medical problems in the kids. To start with a few, children under the age of 2 can develop problems in cognitive development due to the excessive screen time while older ones can show behavioral signs of distress and short temperament. Teenagers can also get involved in depression due to it.
Child obesity may also occur as a result of excessive screen time if it decreases your physical activity. It’s your responsibility as a parent to encourage physical play and sports over video games, TV and social media.
Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) also suggests that children who use digital media excessively will have a 10% greater chance of developing Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Furthermore, screens like Smartphones, laptops and tabs emit high-energy blue light which can damage the sensitive retina in the eye and cause many different vision problems.
How to Supervise Screen Time for Kids:
Supervising and limiting screen time for kids is very important for keeping them safe from the drastic effects mentioned above. But as a parent, what can you do to reduce and supervise your child’s screen time? Here are some recommendations:
· Preview programs and games that your child enjoys. Anything with violence and indecency should be avoided at any costs.
· Discuss digital safety with your child. Teach your child what sort of behavior is expected on social media and the internet. Tell your children what they shouldn’t be sending via the internet that they would be embarrassed to have leaked in public.
· Explain to your children how the ads work and how to counteract in case of an immoral advertisement. It’s best to use an ad-blocker and block these ads so they wouldn’t show in the first place. But educating your child about these ads is important because he or she will inevitably come in contact with them sometime someday.
· Block websites with dangerous and indecent content.
· Explain to your children that some people and organizations steal personal information and sell it to their advertisers. Teach them what sort of information they are supposed to expose on the internet and whatnot.
Limiting screen time is even trickier in the teenagers. Teens require more freedom and display greater individuality so which is why you should allow them a reasonable amount of screen time unless it’s distancing them from their family or reducing their physical activity.
Screen time for kids is a very hot topic nowadays. If your children are turning into technology-feeding zombies, then it’s time to establish some basic ground rules to overturn the situation. But make sure you’re letting your child come on board with this decision and hearing their opinions, otherwise, they can act quite rebellious.