When we were kids, our parents plopped us in front of the TV to watch Sesame Street. That was back in the days that remote controls were a rare commodity. Today, so many things have advanced in the way of technology that our kids can watch Sesame Street and plenty of other programs anywhere, even in the palm of their hands.
Now that these devices are everywhere, parents aren’t sure what to do. Screen time can be quite beneficial, but it also has some major drawbacks. Understanding them can help you bring balance to your home and help your kids thrive.
Screen Time Benefits
In school, kids are much more involved with technology these days than they were in the past. That’s not expected to change either. They have a treasure trove of information at their fingertips that can help them learn.
Children that engage in screen time with tablets, smartphones, and computers have more preparation to use these things with ease when they’re in school. There are many learning apps that promote healthy activities, learning, and how to make smart choices with food. And yes, it gives parents a break sometimes as well. Parents can catch a breath to make dinner, important phone calls, or just have a few minutes to gather their thoughts.
Screen Time Drawbacks
On the downside, screen time does encourage a more sedentary lifestyle. This leads to overweight, out of shape children. Additionally, as children rely on screens to communicate with others, they lack social graces that generations before upheld. Many children today don’t know how to have a proper conversation on the phone, relying on texts instead.
Furthermore, social and behavioral issues aren’t the only troubles that will befall children that spend too much time in front of the screen. They also suffer from sleep issues because the blue light that these devices emit disturbs the natural circadian rhythm. This creates a vicious cycle of behavior because children that don’t get enough sleep tend to act out. They also make poor choices when it comes to eating well.
Bringing Back the Balance with Screen Time
You simply can’t banish using devices since kids will need to rely on them for school. However, both the World HealthOrganization and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge parents to limit screen time, particularly for younger children. For children ages, 2 to 4, it should only be limited to one hour per day. Children ages 5 to 12 shouldn’t have more than 2 hours of screen time per day, excluding screen time needed for homework.
With a limited quantity of time, you should also think about the quality of that screen time. Using educational apps and educational TV shows geared for your child's age group allows for positive growth. Screen-free zones, like at the dining table, and established screen-free times can help children of all ages, even older ones.
And when you’re focusing on keeping screen time down and enhancing the quality of what they watch, make sure you’re tucking those devices away before the sun goes down. Screen time at night or just prior to bed can keep your children from falling asleep. For older children, having a charging station outside their bedrooms can ensure they're not staying up too late using their devices. By making sure screen time is balanced with real activities and other healthy lifestyle habits, you can reap the benefits of screen time.