Screen time and how much is too much for your children will always be a hot topic. Even though there are undoubtedly positive things about having so much information at our fingertips, research has shown that kids spend an average of 7 hours per day on electronic media devices, which is more than they do on any other activity. Spending too much time on screens has been linked to not getting enough sleep, bad grades, and a greater risk of obesity. Here’s some information about why it’s so important for parents to limit screen time and the effects it can have.
How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
The Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists and American Association of Paediatrics (AAP) have very similar guidelines when it comes to children and screen time.
- For children under 18 months: Avoid screen time (except video-chatting).
- For children 18-24 months: No more than a half an hour per day of screen time alongside an adult. Try to avoid solo screen use.
- Children 3-5 years: An hour of screen time per day.
- For children over the age of 6: 2 hours or less of solo screen time daily.
What Is The Right Amount of Screen Time?
For children at school their screen time should be reduced to only 2 hours per day. This doesn’t just refer to TV, but includes all electronic devices such as phones, tablets, games consoles, laptops and computers. If this transition seems difficult, it’s a good idea to have activities on hand like books, puzzles and craft supplies. You could also try to plan out family time such as going for a walk or playing a board game together to encourage interaction.
Why Is It Important to Limit Screen Time?
Although some screen time can be educational, too much of it may have a negative effect on a child’s development and overall well-being. An excess amount can even increase the risk of health, development and learning issues.
We know that young children learn best from interacting with people and not screens. It is only through real-life interactions such as conversations and play-time that children can think creatively, actively problem solve and actually accomplish activities as opposed to passively watching. Research has even found that toddlers who were exposed to handheld screen time were more likely to have delayed expressive language skills.
Screen time can have such an intense effect on the brain that, even after we turn off the device, the brain keeps firing as if it were still watching it. That’s why the more screen time a child has, the more likely they will have trouble falling asleep or maintaining a regular sleep schedule. Poor sleep habits not only affect a child’s mood and behaviour but can make it hard to concentrate, meaning listening and learning at school becomes difficult.
Children who spend lots of time in front of a screen are less likely to be active, which over time can lead to issues with obesity. It’s also likely that kids who watch a lot of TV will be exposed to advertisements for fast food and sugary drinks, which can encourage an unhealthy diet.
Behaviour and Attention Issues
Excessive screen time has been found to have an affect on a child’s attention span and can encourage hyperactivity and behavioural issues in school and at home.
Drop-off In Educational Activities
Studies have found that as children get older and spend more time using screens, there is a high drop-off rate in the amount of educational activities they engage in.
How Can I Easily Limit My Child’s Screen Time?
There’s no question that limiting screen time is going to be challenging at times. However, even though your child may throw tantrums or get upset when their screen time is limited, it’s important to remember there will be many benefits in the long run. Here are a few tips to help regulate screen time.
Remove Screens from Your Child’s Bedroom
Having a TV or computer in the bedroom is a huge distraction for your child, especially when they’re meant to be studying or falling asleep. It’s even been linked to kids getting lower test scores, so removing TV’s and any other electronic devices from their bedroom is a priority!
Set Time Limits and Stick to Them
Whether it's letting your kids watch an hour of TV after their homework is complete or no more than 30 minutes texting with friends, it’s crucial that you establish clear rules and limits for screen time. Even though it may be tempting to give in when your kids get upset or throw a tantrum, be consistent and firm.
Be a Good Role Model
Parents should lead by example and limit their time spent in front of the TV, on the computer or using a smartphone or tablet. Children are very tuned in to their parents’ habits, and will imitate what they see. A great place to start would be having 'Screen-Free' times throughout the day, where you leave your devices in a different room.