“My little one spends the whole day on tab, literally WHOLE DAY.” Mom 1. “Oh, and how old is he?” the second mom inquires. “Turned 2, this March,” she exclaimed. “What? only 2?” and she continued “I don’t allow mine to use screen more than 5 hours a day to keep him occupied, he is 6 by the way.”
This is the kind of conversation each mother and even father can relate to. I, being a mother can very well understand where this discussion leads to and usually ends up with no clear way out to limit our children’s screen time.
The question is; “How much screen time is enough for the kids?” As parents, each one of us has googled this phrase many times to look for a compact and clear answer. If you are still digging into finding more researched information on the topic, I have compiled this article to help parents understand when, how much, and what regarding screens is fine or harmful for your kids.
Doubtlessly, children spend excessive time on screens be it a mobile screen, laptop, tablet, or television. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) however, completely restricts the use of the screen in kids younger than 2 years of age. You can read more on the same here. So, if you are offering your 1 and a half year videos on a tab to keep them occupied and entertained you are doing wrong.
Which gadgets fall in the definition of a screen?
The screen is not limited to a mobile or a smartphone only. It does comprehend tablets, gaming consoles, laptops, desktops, television, and all digital devices.
How much is enough?
As mentioned earlier, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) completely restricts the use of screen time in kids under age 2. However, controlled and limited screen time is permissible to children from 2 years to 5 years of age. The terms “controlled” and “limited” do not give us leverage to comprehend them at our convenience.
Harmful Impacts of Excessive Screen Time in Kids
Must have heard “Excess of everything is bad.” So is the case in letting kids use digital devices for a long. The overusing screen does not only affect the physical health of a child but also strikes his mental and cognitive development.
1. Lack of Family Bonding and Emotional Development in Children
A child’s mental, physical, and emotional development begins at home. A child with gadgets in hand most of the time will never learn how to empathize with a little sister or a brother, how to develop a sense of connection with parents, and how to emotionally bond with grandparents and other family members.
2. Lack of Social Development in Kids
More screen time = Less social interaction
As the child develops, he gets to interact with people in a society. With the passage of time a kid learns this social interaction skill and keeps getting better at it over time. Screens limit the societal interaction of a child which ultimately results in hindering his social development. Excessive use of screen clearly impacts the face to face contact of individual with the outside world. For this reason, a child fails to develop eye contact, clear communication, confidence and other social skills.
3. Effects of Screen Time on Mental, Cognitive and Sensory Development of a Child
Screens block the vast canvas of learning and thinking for kids. When a child is glued to screen for straight 4-7 hours he loses the moments of exploration and the digital aspect inhibits his natural way of thinking and wondering.
The digital screen provides our kids with entertainment all by itself. These highly entertaining devices are easier to use and fit best on the NO WORK ALL PLAY philosophy. A child in love with screens will be hard to play with toys using creativity, mind, and patience.
4. Sleep Disturbance
Excessive screen use does not hit hard on developmental phases only but also disturbs sleeping pattern. Particularly in children, using screen before bed time is extremely dangerous. Screens emit blue light which suppress the melatonin levels and make it difficult for your child to sleep. This in a long run can lead to insomnia or other sleep disturbance issues.
5. Mood Swings
Mood swings in kids? you might find this an off combo but yes, this is the reality check. Screens are causing increasing cases of mood swings in children below age 10. If your child is being too cranky, irritable, depressed, or showing tantrums most of the time you better check for his screen time. Excessive use of screens does not only make them depressed or irritable but can also develop aggressiveness at a younger age. This happens because of poor social, emotional, and mental development.
Does your child come to you with a complaint of eye pain, eye strain or headache? One of the many causes related to eyestrain is screen time. A child focuses on the screen too much, there is less blinking because of blue light from the gadgets which results in eye fatigue, dry eyes, irritation in eyes, and eyestrain. If left untreated, this can lead to a permanent damage.
Among many more diseases, obesity is the one worth mentioning as it is rapidly increasing among children. If your child is excessively using screen it is very likely that he might develop a comorbidity i.e. child obesity. A child stuck to a TV screen or mobile tend to eat more not realizing when he is full. Alongside, using a tablet, smartphone, or gaming console requires movement of hand muscles only. Lack of physical exercise makes it hard for stomach to digest food which result in obesity.
How to limit screen time for kids?
Man is a social animal, have always been reading this. Humans by nature need social and natural environment to grow and develop healthy. Remember your child needs humans and not digital devices to grow with. Here are some tries and tested tips by parents to help you reduce your child’s screen time.
- Model limited use of screen in front of kids
- Spend time with kids minus technology
- Put your devices away while eating and during family time
- Encourage outdoor play
- Involve them with house chores
- Explain them why limiting screen time is necessary
Remember, you are a parent. You need to start from somewhere to make them understand.