Research shows that children spend anywhere from six to eight hours using technology, whether that being using a smartphone, tablet or watching television. Additionally, children are not only devoting a lot of time to technology, but they are usually using multiple devices at one time.
There are many negative effects to children being exposed to too much technology. Research shows that too much screen time, especially close to bedtime, makes it much harder to fall asleep. The light that is produced from smartphones and tablets limit the production of melatonin which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Using technology close to bed keeps your brain active, which can also affect your ability to fall asleep. Excessive exposure to screen time has also been linked to increase risk of attention difficulties, anxiety and depression.
With children spending more time on their devices, they are also at a higher risk for obesity. There are many reasons for this, most notably being that children are less active when they are occupied by their devices. Children also are influenced through marketing campaigns they see on the internet or television that promote unhealthy food options or other toys and devices that do encourage physical play. While being occupied by the television or device, they also tend to overeat because they are not consciously thinking about how much they are eating. Instead, they are focused on their game or the show they are watching and are mindlessly eating.
Despite these negative effects, there are benefits to exposing your child to technology when managed and used properly. It is important that children are not completely removed from technology because learning how to use these devices will help them develop the skills they will need later in life, especially in their future careers.
Taking into consideration the negative effects and the benefits of exposure to technology, it is important that families find a healthy balance. Here are some tips to create a healthy balance of technology and physical play in your household:
- Set Limitations: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children from 18 to 24 months are only introduced to high-quality programs and children ages 2 to 5 years old are limited to 1 hour per day. They also recommend that parents engaged with their children about what they are seeing and help them understand what it means and how it applies to their lives.
Because sleep is so essential for the development of children and excessive exposure to technology can alter sleep habits, families should set limits on how late a child can be using their device or watching television. Families can also limit the time spent using technology by setting standards in the house that devices and the television cannot be used until certain activities such as homework, chores or outside play have been completed. It is also important to ensure that children to do not have a television or devices in their room, so they are not tempted to use it after hours or if they can’t sleep.
- Encourage Play: Even if it is a rainy or cold day and your children cannot play outside, there are plenty of indoor fun activities to encourage your children to do other than turning to technology to occupy them. Create quiet boxes or bags that have fun and educational activities that will keep them busy for hours. Enjoy family time by establishing a family game night where everyone can play a board game or create a puzzle together. If the weather is nicer, plan trips to the beach or park or take a walk or bike ride together as a family. Get your children involved in group activities with other children and families by setting up fun play dates or joining arts and enrichment programs such as a sports team, or a music or art program.
- Be a Role Model: Set an example for your children by also minimizing the amount of time you dedicate to your devices. When engaged in family time such as dinner or family game night, make sure you leave your devices in the other room and the television is off.
How does your family balance the amount of time they spend in front of a screen?