As a parent, it can be a challenge to figure out how much time screen time to let your child have. They use screens for learning, communicating, playing games, relaxing and more.
Small amounts of screen time can be useful and enjoyable for families. Children can keep in touch with relatives and friends, be creative, and be entertained or distracted.
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.
However, researchers and health professionals are starting to see some impacts on child health and development as a result of screen time.
The amount of time spent in front of a screen, and the quality of the content, has been linked to some negative health outcomes.
Children who have too much screen time can have issues with weight, sleep, communication skills, neck and back strain, eye health, and exposure to harmful information.
- Children who spend a lot of time on screens may not be getting enough exercise, leading to weight gain
- Children watching screens will often just keep snacking and not be aware of what they are eating
- The light emitted from screens can make it difficult for children to get to sleep, especially when used in the evening or close to bed-time, reducing the amount of sleep they can get
- Inadequate sleep leads to weight gain, mood and behaviour issues
- Screen use can isolate kids from what is going on around them
- Family and friend relationships can be affected because children sit beside each other on screens without interacting
- Children can also miss out on developing language skills through play
Neck and Back Strain
- Children can develop neck and back strain from poor posture while hunched over screens
- Children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop short-sightedness
- Staring at screens leads to dry eyes, eye strain and fatigue
Exposure to Harmful Information
- Difficult to always check what your child is watching to ensure it’s safe and appropriate
- Children who watch violent content have a negative outlook on the world and are more likely to show aggression
- Internet and social media also give children the chance to send and receive hurtful messages
So, what can you do to reduce the risks for your child?
Develop some family guidelines that focus on:
- How often children have access to screens
- How long they can use them for at a time
- What content they can view
Like all parenting decisions, it’s important to make sure you model the preferred behaviour. Start conversations about screen time with your kids and encourage healthier habits.
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