According to an article by The Conversation, young people are using screens more than ever. The average number of screen-based digital devices reported to be owned and used by children in Australia has reached 3.3 devices per child. These devices include laptops, smartphones, televisions, tablets, gaming devices and family computers. Similar to many Western nations, children are estimated to be using a mobile device or watching television for 3-4 hours a day and exceeding health guidelines. Surveys have found almost all high school students and two-thirds of primary school students own a screen-based device.
Children are spending at least a third of their day staring at screens. The different screen time intensities can have varying levels of influence on children’s mental health, life satisfaction and interactions. While researchers present some polarised findings, teachers and parents remain concerned about the access to these various devices and the time spent on them. However, there is also the discussion of the quality of time spent versus the quantity of time.
So what is the verdict? Is it the quantity or quality of the children’s screen time that we should be considering? Also, with the holidays here with us, what non-screen activities can we also engage the children in?
Researchers strongly emphasize measuring the quality of screen time, rather than the quantity. Parents and teachers still need to show caution with children’s screen time, as the study found did find associations between screen time and a variety of negative impacts on kids’ health.
Some of the negative effects of too much screen time are;
a. Behaviour problems: Children between the ages of 3 and 10 years who watch TV or use a computer more than 2 hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
b. Less time for active and creative play.
c. Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
d. Sleep problems: Too much screen time causes irregular sleep in children. The more time children spend on screens, the more likely they will have trouble sleeping or have irregular sleeping patterns. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
e. Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. As a result, children might learn to accept violent behaviour as a normal way to solve problems.
How can you control your child’s screen time? Here are some useful tips;
a. Be the role model
Model the right screen related behaviour you would like to see in your kids. Avoid keeping the TV on for background noise all the time or scrolling through your phone any time you have a spare minute.
b. Create “technology-free zones”
Establish zones in your house where electronics are not prohibited. For example, your dining room or kitchen, which you could keep reserved for having meals and family conversations.
c. Keep your child’s bedroom screen-free.
Try to keep TVs and Computers in a common living room. This way it is easier to monitor the websites, shows and how much time they spend on the screens.
e. Plan what your child watches and create some watch time with your child.
Preview video games, programmes and applications before your child uses them. If possible watch shows together and talk about what you see. For example, on family values, healthy foods, violence and current affairs.
f. Encourage active screen time by choosing shows, video games that encourage physical activity.
Limiting your child's screen-time might be hard at first, but the small changes will have long term positive effects.