How Much Screen Time Is Right for Your Child?
In the modern world, children are exposed to technology at a young age. Many parents introduce their children to technology early in the hope that they will grow up to be tech savvy and do well in school and on the job. With all of the challenges and stresses of being a parent, it can be tempting to sit children down in front of the TV to have some time to cook, clean and do laundry.
Scientists have noted that too much screen time, particularly at a young age, can affect children’s development. The amount of time that children spend in front of screens should therefore be monitored and limited.
Effects of Too Much Screen Time
Too much exposure to technology can cause children to become detached from their families and friends. Kids may spend so much time focused on TV, video games or a computer that they are not having conversations with others, even if they are sitting in the same room.
Kids who spend several hours a day in front of a screen don’t spend nearly as much time playing outdoors. Exercise helps children develop motor skills and maintain a healthy weight. Exposure to sunlight and fresh air can reduce stress and contribute to a sense of wellbeing. Children lose these benefits if they spend hours inside focused on a screen.
Too much time watching TV and playing video and computer games can cause children to become overstimulated. This can cause them to become easily distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate in school.
If children have TVs, video games or computers in their bedrooms, they are often tempted to use them at night when they should be sleeping. Even if parents impose strict bedtimes, studies have shown that using a screen shortly before going to bed can make it difficult to fall asleep, which means children may not get the rest they need to stay focused in school the next day.
It’s important to make a distinction between time spent watching TV and playing video games for entertainment and time spent using a computer for homework. The risks to children’s health and development come from overuse of screen time for entertainment.
The Right Amount of Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 18 months not be exposed to screens at all because of the impact on their brain development and ability to bond with family members. Between the ages of two and five, the AAP advises parents to limit screen time to an hour a day. For older children, parents should use their discretion.
Talk to your family about the benefits and risks of technology and set guidelines for your children. Set a positive example yourself. Make a point of spending time with your children talking face to face without distractions so you can develop strong bonds as a family.