Children and screen time
What is screen time?
Screen time is a term used to describe the amount of time spent looking at a screen. Screens include TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets, and video consoles. Screens are used for work, education, communication and leisure. Due to their many uses, it is often difficult to control the amount of time children spend using screens, instead of taking part in other important childhood activities. Small amounts of screen time can be useful and enjoyable for families. They can offer time for children to connect with others, be creative and learn. Screen time can keep children entertained, or distracted, and are used in educational settings by teachers.
Why are we talking about screen time?
Health professionals are talking about screen time because they are starting to see some effects on child health. It is only recently that children’s access to a wide range of screen devices has dramatically increased. Consequently, the research on the effects of screen time on children is still emerging. The time spent in front of a screen, and the quality of the content on screen, has been linked to a number of positive and negative health outcomes. These include:
- Children who spend a lot of time using screens may not be getting enough physical activity, leading to weight gain. Current guidelines recommend that children exercise for at least an hour each day .
- Children using screens will often eat and not be conscious of the amount of food they are eating.
- They may also be influenced by junk food advertisements and be more likely to seek out unhealthy food.
- The light emitted from screens has been shown to prevent sleep onset in children when used in the evening or just before sleep. This can, therefore, reduce the total amount of sleep that children get.
- Less sleep in children is linked to weight gain and to mood and behaviour problems.
- Guidelines recommend children sleep between 8 and 12 hours each night.
- Screen use can isolate children from what is going on around them. Families may miss out on the everyday interactions that build healthy relationships. Friendships may also be affected as children sit alongside each other on screens instead of interacting and communicating with each other.
- Children can also miss out on opportunities to develop language through play and interactions with others.
Exposure to potentially harmful information :
- There is growing evidence that shows children who watch violent content, are more likely to view the world as a scary, uncaring and mean place.
Neck and back strain:
- While there are clear guidelines for ergonomic use of desktop computers, guidelines to suit all types of screens are much more difficult to provide. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the time spent leaning, or hunched over screens is leading to neck and back pain in children.
- Ideally, screens should be positioned just below your child’s line of vision with their neck in a neutral position.
Eye health :
- Research has shown that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop short sightedness.
- When children stare at the screen for a long time, they may blink less than normal which can dry the eyes. This can lead to eye strain and fatigue.
Some positives of screen time:
- Young children learn most from face-to-face, 2-way conversations and interactions. However, ‘’video chatting”, eg: using Skype or FaceTime, may be of some benefit for children to keep in touch with friends and family.
- Screen time can also play an important role in keeping children connected when they are sick or in hospital, or as a means of distraction.
- For children with a medical condition, social media platforms allow them to connect with others with similar conditions and provide opportunities for selfexpression and for increasing awareness amongst peers about their condition.
- Older children’s use of the Internet helps develop their skills and interests. Social platforms can be a useful way of forming friendships, in addition to cultivating empathy and activism.
Screen time guidelines: Family guidelines should focus on this things.
- How often children have access to screens (you may choose to have screen-free days).
- How long children can use them for (splitting the time between different types of screen and using a limiting device such as a stop watch or screen lock as a control measure).
- What children can view (the quality of what your child is viewing is more important than the time spent).
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video-chatting, by children younger than 18 to 24 months. They also recommend that children aged 2 to 5 years limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming. In Australia, the current recommendation is for no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for children, with screen time not recommended for children under 2 years.
ThechildPlus take on screen time
We recommend that children aged under 2 years not routinely be given screen time unless video chatting, and that children aged 2 to 5 years only be exposed to 1 to 2 hours of high quality programming per day. Once your child begins school, then as a family, you need to discuss how best to use screen time to reduce excessive use.
What We can do at TheChildPlus- Holistic Pediatrics
Our holistic model of approach will bring new dimensions of healthy lifestyle for your children. Feel free to visit us. We are happy to help.