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.
Excessive use of screen time can have negative effects on young children including:
- Especially when close to bed, makes it harder to sleep
- Linked to increase of attention difficulties, anxiety and depression
- Higher risk for obesity due to being less active
When it comes to screen time it is important that families find a healthy balance. 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.
Another way for parents to help curb the amount of screen time their children get is to 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.
One of the best ways to encourage a healthy balance is to 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.
What other suggestions would you give to families who are trying to minimize the amount of screen time their family has?