Modern times have completely changed the way children learn, communicate, play and spend their time. People say kids nowadays are born with an integrated tech chip, and that they almost instantly know how to get in touch with technology even better than most adults. But that’s not entirely truth. In fact, kids will have a relationship with technology as a result of your example and guidance.
Sure, it might be easier to just hand them a tablet or turn on the TV and get rid of the hassle of chasing them around. But do you really know what’s the effect of too much screen time on your kids? Keep reading to find out the effects of screens on children, how much should they really be allowed to see and how to start limiting their screen time to raise healthy kids.
1. How can Screen Time Affect Kids?
Screens, and technology in general, are responsible for many important advances in the educational field, and they also provide for some of the best entertainment around. But several studies have been conducted in order to determine if screens offer more benefits than harmful side effects, or if it’s the other way around. While screens are not all bad for kids, there are some potential pros and cons to keep in mind before deciding to let your children watch TV and other screens:
Screen time is not all bad, in fact it has several benefits for kids of all ages.
- Screens that show high quality content with music, movement and engaging stories can help program the minds of children and mold them intellectually.
- Watching screens with your kids can make them understand new concepts they can later apply in real life.
- Although passive screen time doesn’t replace other activities, it can help kids learn many new things.
Having excessive screen time or even a moderate amount but in very bad quality can have several negative side effects.
- According to reputable Health Organizations, big amounts of time spent in front of a screen have been associated to childhood obesity and all of this condition’s side effects such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Long exposure to screens, whether it’s passive or active, can promote irregular sleep schedules and shorter periods of sleep in young children.
- Watching too much TV can also cause certain behavioral problems such as the loss or poorly developed social skills and higher signs of violence from a young age.
- Kids that spend too much time in front of the TV become less creative, less active and less social; so, you might be noticing that their willingness to play is decreasing with time.
2. The Ideal Screen Time by Age
As we’ve mentioned before, there are very known side effects when it comes to children and their exposure to screens. Before we get to the ideal time according to kids’ ages, you should know there are different types of screen exposure. First, we find active screen time, which involves smartphones, computers and tablets, where the kids take an active role in using the device. There’s also passive screen time, in which kids just sit in front of the TV, laptop, computer or any other type of screen and watches it.
For kids under 2 years old, it’s highly recommended to encourage toddlers to engage in physical activities and to have personal interactions with them. The screen must be severely limited for kids under 2 years old, it’s better not to expose kids this age to screens but if it’s absolutely necessary it mustn’t be more than one hour per day. If you desire to expose your toddler to a screen, make sure to accompany them at all times so you help them understand what they’re seeing, and you corroborate it’s educational content only.
2+ to 5 Years
At this stage in children’s lives, they’re most likely to start interacting with characters and wanting to know more from them on a different level. Screen time should be limited to one hour per day, and it’s best and recommended to plan ahead your TV hour instead of using it as a way to calm down a tantrum or keep your kid steady. As a useful tip, many of the screen characters your kids will meet are most likely available in more interactive ways such as books or toys. Look for these since this can ease their need to see more of their favorite characters without increasing screen time.
6+ to 10 Years
At this stage in childhood, kids become more independent, start going to school and have more and more activities throughout the day. It’s important that you make sure screen time doesn’t interrupt homework, house chores or even essential activities for their health such as some active time, sleep time or skipping meals. Let your kids play an active role in deciding the time where they’d like to use their screen time, which can be up to 1.5-2 hours per day.
3. How to Reduce Screen Time Effectively
If your kids are getting too much screen time, there are several things you can try to reduce this time and make them play more. A very effective way to reduce screen time is to create a screen time chart for all of your kids and clearly state that there’s a limited time for each of them. They can use their time individually or in the family. Encourage them to engage in more games with their siblings or with you, get creative and plan exciting activities such as outdoor playdates, visiting zoos or parks and also fun indoor activities such as reading or making puzzles. The best way to help kids reduce screen time is to set a good example; so, limit your own screen time and show them there are plenty of things to do around the house away from the TV.
4. Basic Screen Time Guidelines
Asides from the fact that you should limit screen time for your children, there are other important guidelines to keep in mind.
- The main thing to keep in mind is to constantly monitor the time spent on devices by using parental control apps, which also limit the content your kids are allowed to watch.
- Even though the time should never be more than the recommended, make your kids feel like they must “earn” their screen time by doing house chores and behaving.
- Don’t keep tech devices in your kids’ bedroom, and if you absolutely must, make sure to turn them off at least 2 hours previous to bedtime so they can have a “clean” sleep routine.
TV can be a great device to watch engaging and entertaining content, and it’s surely magical once you’re old enough to watch it as you please. But the most important to keep in mind if you want to set proper screen time for your children, is that you must understand the risks of screens on your small kid’s eyes and brains before you can set the right limits.