What are the Positive and Negative Effects of Screen time in Children?
In the digital age of today, the regulation of children’s use of digital devices is a concern that often takes centre stage in conversations about parenting. With most children acquiring personal devices by middle school, the tendency to overuse has skyrocketed among young people. As a parent, how can you make sure that your child is striking a balance?
The Need for Digital Access
There is no doubt that children require some level of exposure to digital technology. Learning to use the internet and digital applications as resources, and becoming tech-savvy, are necessary and healthy skills for children to have, as they will have to navigate the digital world throughout their lives.
👉Learning and Entertainment
Very young children, including toddlers and children in kindergarten and primary school, are usually introduced to digital devices mainly as a source of entertainment. Older children generally begin to use technology as a resource for their studies and as a space of learning, in addition to their quota of digital entertainment.
Striking a balance between the screen time one uses for entertainment and for learning, and also between screen time and non-screen time in general, are both important for children to maintain healthy digital lives.
The Negative Impacts of Excessive Screen Time
An overuse of digital devices can have extremely harmful effects, whether you are an adult or a child. For children, these effects are all the more dangerous, as they are making their impact during an important, highly formative time in their lives.
(1) Lack of Exercise
The primary problem with children using screens excessively is the tendency for their levels of physical activity to become reduced. Spending more than a couple of hours on a device means that your child is staying physically inactive for long periods of time, and this can lead to health issues such as an imbalanced weight, low stamina and muscle strength, and bad posture.
(2) Problems with Vision
Another potential health concern associated with excessive screen time is the impairment of your child’s vision. Long periods of exposure to lit screens usually have detrimental effects on the eyes, which may eventually require medical intervention to be corrected.
(3) Decreased Attention Span
The overuse of digital devices comes with an unhealthy overload of stimuli that your child is exposed to, and this brings with it a constant tendency towards distraction and restlessness. This can impact your child’s ability to focus for extended periods of time.
(4) Reduced Academic Performance
A decreased attention span, as well as the reduction in study time that comes with an overabundance of screen use, will almost always cause a decrease in the quality of your child’s academic work. They may experience difficulty with maintaining their concentration during school hours, and a lack of motivation to study and complete assignments after school.
(5) Exposure to Inappropriate Content
Particularly for young children, another forefront danger associated with too much time spent online is the risk of being exposed to content that is age-inappropriate. As children spend extended hours browsing the internet and entertainment platforms, they may inadvertently be led to graphic content intended only for adults. This may have highly negative effects on their mental processes and worldviews.
(6) Underdeveloped Social Skills
If your child is spending the bulk of their time on their digital devices, the time they spend interacting with family and friends will automatically become reduced, maybe even removed from their schedules entirely. A lack of enough social interaction during this formative time in their lives can lead to impediments in the development of their social skills. They may become reclusive, unconfident in dealing with peers and others, and poor communicators in general.
Optimised Digital Access
Children often end up overusing digital devices when they exceed recommended daily quotas of digital entertainment—as a general rule, you might want to consider imposing rules to ensure that your child is not spending more than an hour per weekday on a device, and around three hours or less on a weekend. Less frequently, and usually prevalent in high school students, there may be an overuse of digital devices for educational purposes—studying, making digital notes, and so on.
👉Striking a Balance: Younger Children
Regulation is key—being firm and consistent about limiting your child’s screen time to an appropriate length of time is the most effective preventive measure you can take.
To strike a balance, encourage your child to balance their digital entertainment with time spent on sports, dance or other physical activity. Ensure that they are getting at least an hour of socialising with friends and family members. And, of course, be firm about the time they should be spending on their studies.
If your child already has an established habit of excessive screen time, the transition might be challenging—you should make sure to sit them down and communicate your concerns, and explain to them why it is important that they balance themselves. Being firm but also open to communication is usually the best way to negotiate with children.
👉Striking a Balance: Older Children
For older children, who may be engaged in long study sessions during which they must use a digital device, investing in a pair of blue-light glasses is always a good idea. Also help them ensure that they are incorporating tips to maintain good posture while using devices for extended periods of time, and encourage them to take enough breaks, schedule ample amounts of leisure time when they can socialise, and spend some time on physical exercise.
Technological advances have given students a host of new ways to access entertainment, and optimise their education at the same time. Helping your child maintain a balance between a complete lack of technological use, and overuse, is essential to help them lead healthy lives in a digital context.