Lots of parents worry that too much screentime could be affecting their kid’s health but how bad is it really?
Screentime and Sleep Disorders in Children
The clearest evidence for an impact on kids’ health is that screentime at night can trigger sleep disorders. The reason for this is that the blue light emitted by phone, TV, tablet and other screens is similar to daylight so it wakes our brains up. Using screens before bed can therefore increase the chances of sleep disorders in children. However, screen use during the day doesn’t seem to affect children’s sleep as long as they go to bed at the right time, so restricting screen use at night is enough to prevent this problem.
Screentime and Mental Health in Children
Some evidence also suggests that children who spend more time using screens are more likely to experience mental health problems such as depression or social anxiety. However, other factors such as their relationships with peers and stress over schoolwork can have a stronger effect on kids’ mental health and a moderate amount of screentime seems to be good for young people’s mental wellbeing.
How Much Screentime is Too Much?
It’s important to consider how and why children are using devices rather than just focusing on screentime. If they are enjoying time interacting with friends, playing games or being creative online while still participating in other activities and maintaining a healthy lifestyle then their screen use is unlikely to cause problems. However, if they are accessing harmful material online, have become the target of cyberbullying, or are using their screens to escape from other issues then it could become harmful. Using screens for a long time could also indirectly affect kids’ health and wellbeing in other ways if it prevents them from getting enough exercise or stops them from completing their homework. You should judge how much screentime is appropriate by its affect on your kid’s health and happiness.
Tips for Limiting Screentime
You shouldn’t worry too much about the effects of screentime on kids’ health but it can help to set sensible rules for when and how long children can use their devices.
- Be clear about the rules so your child knows what’s expected and why it is important
- Focus on what matters most to you, such as not using phones during meals or when talking to each other
- Avoiding screentime for an hour before bed and keeping screens out of the bedroom is a good rule for everybody (including you)
- Make sure that your child has alternatives to screentime such as going for a walk, joining a sports team, playing games as a family, or cooking together so that they will choose to do other things
- Adjust the rules as children get older so that they can take responsibility for their own screen use
Although limiting screentime can be a good idea, especially at night, it is important to remember that screens are a key part of modern life. Children can learn a lot and enjoy social interactions with their peers through these devices. They are also developing technological skills that will be essential as they get older. Screentime isn’t all bad for kids’ health.