What to Do About Screen Time and Kids

Children grow up a lot differently today than they did in the past. (Image: via Flickr)

Children grow up a lot differently today than they did in the past. While older generations may have had some exposure to screens through TV, that pales in comparison to what kids face today. These days, kids are bombarded by screens throughout the day, starting at a very young age. Between TV, computers, tablets, video games, and of course smartphones, screens are almost impossible to avoid.

Benefits of screen time

There is a lot written these days about the harmful effects of screen time for kids. While there are certainly some negatives (which we cover below), screen time isn’t all bad. This is particularly true if your kids are exposed to the right kind of screen time. For example, some television shows are interactive and can even be educational. Similarly, there are plenty of educational games that both teach and entertain at the same. Some video games can even enhance hand-eye-coordination, and this can pay big dividends down the road in sports and in the mastery of musical instruments.

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A decade ago, televisions were said to be posing the greatest harm to children. But in the mobile age we live in, iPhones are reportedly doing far greater damage. (Image via pexels / CC0 1.0)
A decade ago, televisions were said to be posing the greatest harm to children, but mobile devices are reportedly doing far greater damage. (Image: via pexels / CC0 1.0)

Negative aspects of screen time

Of course, screen time isn’t all good. It has been linked to a number of issues, including obesity, eye strain, and poor posture. It has even been known to be disruptive to kids’ sleep. If your child is tossing and turning in bed, screen time might just be the culprit. This is particularly true for kids that watch screens close to bedtime.

Screen time has also been linked to a number of non-physical issues. For example, some children who experience excessive amounts of screen time have difficulty making and keeping friends. This is because screen time can stunt the development of a kid’s frontal lobe, which is largely responsible for helping people to socialize.

little girl dressed in pink holding a smartphone in hand, starring at the screen. Lights to t
There is a lot written today about the harmful effects of screen time on kids. (Image: Flickr, CC 2.0)

Screen time also fuels a desire for instant gratification, which isn’t always accessible in the real world. This lack of patience can lead to all sorts of challenges, including poor academic performance.

What’s the right amount of screen time?

A lot of the negatives above can be avoided by limiting the amount of screen time that your child experiences. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids below age 2 avoid screen time altogether. However, kids between 2 and 5 years of age can use screens for an hour a day, and kids age 6 and above can use screens for up to 2 hours a day.

When you stop to think about it, this is actually a pretty good amount of screen time before negative effects start to come into play. Having said that, it’s important to remember that screen time doesn’t just mean TV. It’s good to include more interactive forms of screen time like games and puzzles as well.

Final thoughts

While screen time is an unavoidable part of life for most of us these days, it’s still important to make sure your kids experience it in moderation. One of the best ways to do this is to join them when they watch TV or play on a smartphone. This also has the benefits of enabling the two of you to talk and make it a more interactive experience

It’s also a good idea to carefully monitor what your kids are consuming. The Internet is full of content that wouldn’t be appropriate for young kids after all, and unfortunately, it can be all too easy for kids to find it. With the right measures in place though, screen time can be a perfectly normal part of a healthy childhood.

Author Bio: Ryan Howard runs SmartParentAdvice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Ryan writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.

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