When it comes to children and screen time, most parents agree that too much screen time isn’t ideal. And now research reinforces our greatest fears. There is such a thing as too much screen time.
But when it comes to children and screen time, how much screen time is too much? And what should you do if your child is a tech junkie in the making?
Children – Life with Screen Time
Whether you love or hate technology, you can’t escape its effects on modern life. Our photos live in the cloud. Our personal assistant devices know what we want before we do. Living without a smartphone feels almost unimaginable.
With technology surrounding nearly every aspect of life, it’s no surprise kids spend more time with their screens than ever before. We found a report from 2019 by the media advocacy group Common Sense Media. We learned U.S. teens spend more than seven hours a day on screens, mostly surfing social media platforms.
The numbers for young children are not as high yet still alarming. A 2019 research letter published in Jama Pediatrics assessed young children’s screen time. In 2014, it showed children ages 0 to 5 spent three hours per day combined watching television and using mobile devices.
This relates to pre-k and kindergarten aged children. With online school becoming more of a reality in recent years, our school-aged children will average much more screen time than ever before.
What’s The Problem with Excess Screen Time?
Although screens are part of daily life in the modern era, a growing body of research literature associates excess screen use with negative physical, psychosocial, and neurological effects.
Negative Physical Health Effects Due to Increased Screen Time in Children Include:
- Poor sleep
- Increased risk for high blood pressure, obesity, and poor cholesterol
- Poor stress regulation
- Insulin resistance
- Impaired vision
- Reduced bone density
Negative Psychosocial Health Effects Due to Increased Screen Time in Children Include:
- Depression and suicidal ideation
- ADHD-related behavior linked to sleep problems
- Antisocial behavior
- Decreased prosocial behavior
Negative Neurological Health Effects Due to Increased Screen Time in Children Include:
- Decreased social coping skills
- Changes to brain structure in areas related to cognitive control and emotional regulation
How Much Screen Time Is Too Much Screen Time For Children?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children have no screen time until at least 18 to 24 months of age. Kids ages 2 to 5 should limit screen time to no more than one hour per day.
This recommendation may be shocking to parents who rely on children’s programming to occupy young children. But a 2019 longitudinal study found poorer performance on behavioral, cognitive, and social development screening tests in 3-year-olds. The study suggested that limiting screen time may be vital to the child’s healthy development.
What About Screen Time for Older Kids?
Much of our ubiquitous technology has only been around for a relatively short time. The first iPhone, for example, was introduced in 2007. Keeping research current with tech trends is difficult since devices change faster than the research can keep up.
Additionally, it’s tough to design studies that isolate screen use from other factors. For example, it would be nearly impossible to carry out a long-term study requiring one group of children to use screens for several hours per day while the other group is restricted to zero screen time.
Correlational studies, however, have shown that 8 to 11-year-olds who exceed the recommended 2 hours max per day for their age group score lower on cognitive assessments.
The studies’ authors have found positive mental and cognitive health outcomes for kids who exercise daily, get adequate sleep and use screens no longer than two hours per day.
How Can Parents Balance Screen Time for Children?
1. Start with a positive disposition.
Help your kids find enjoyable, screen-free activities that can replace excess screen time.
2. Be a good role model.
Our actions speak louder than our words. If you want your child to spend more time in the “real world,” aim to do the same in your child’s presence. Lecturing a child for spending too much time on their devices will fall on deaf ears if they see their parent spending a lot of time with technology.
3. Use time-tracking technology.
Several parental control apps allow you to monitor your child’s screen use. Use these apps aware of both content and how much time your child spends on their device.
4. Engage with your child – without a device.
This is the most important thing any parent can do to maximize healthy childhood development.
If you struggle setting and sticking to tech rules in your home, you might find our article interesting: 4 Tips for Setting Boundaries With Your Child.
Contact Creative Counseling Center
Are you worried your child may have adverse effects from too much screen time? Do you struggle setting tech (and other) ground rules with your child – and sticking to them? We can help! Request a Free Phone Consultation by completing the brief form below and a member of our team will contact you. Together, we will determine whether our practice and which therapist is a good fit for parent coaching or working with your child. We have openings this week and look forward to hearing from you.