There are many schools of thought when it comes to screen time for kids, especially in terms of the benefits and drawbacks. How much exposure should they be allowed? Is too much screen time bad for children? We look into this topic and its influence on the modern world, as well as how much could be too much.
The long-term consequences of screen time
There are proven, negative consequences of spending too much time staring at a screen - especially in terms of your eyes. In the short-term, too much exposure puts strain on your eyes and can dry them out, but over many years, it can also damage your retinas.
Once a child reaches teenage years, the long-term issues become more pronounced. According to government research, extended screen time correlates with reduced physical activity resulting in a range of health concerns – from obesity and posture issues, through to sleep problems. Mental issues are also not uncommon during teenage years and can include social isolation, mood swings, poor concentration and more psychological issues that can become habits that extend into adult life.
It is not just the quantity of screen time for kids that matters, it is the quality
Not all screens are equal. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, few parents would take issue with their teenager sitting in front of multiple Zoom classes and meetings followed by even more screen time researching and studying. In some cases, these modes of communication also allow friends and family to unite. But too much of a good thing is sometimes a bad thing – e.g. too much exposure to video games or consuming content that is of no real educational or social value. In fact, a report by Common Sense Media said that when balancing out screen time, it was important not to weigh all of the different types equally.
"All screen use is not equal, especially at a time when other avenues of connection and learning are shut off," author of the report and senior director of research at Common Sense Media Michael Robb said.
The standard two hours a day should no longer be considered gospel, but rather a level of balance between digital and physical worlds should be a priority.
Recommendations by age chart
As per the Common Sense Media report, hard and fast "hours per day" plans are not as effective in the modern world, especially when we use technology like this for learning and communication. However, there are some guidelines you can apply, especially for younger children:
- For children aged 18 months or younger, screen time should be limited to video communication with adults only;
- From 18-14 months, you can extend it to include watching educational programming, but only appropriate supervision
- From the ages of 2-5, non-educational screen time comes into play (like cartoons). Try to limit these sessions to one hour per day on weekdays and three hours on weekends.
From the age of six onwards, it becomes a balancing act rather than applying strict hours of use. Consider applying rules like no gadgets during family meals, learning to implement parental controls to lock devices during certain hours and prevent access to certain content. Of course, always try to encourage as much playtime and recreational activity as possible and try to inspire young minds with fun educational activities like our collection of Hand in Hand kits.