Kids and screen time, how much is too much?
Many parents are concerned about their kids’ screen time, and it seems that the average screen time is increasing. As a parent myself, I researched the effect of too much screen time on the kids, and several facts surprised me.
First of all, what is screen time, you might be wondering. It used to mean how much time was spent staring at the TV, but these days we have more screens to choose from – iPads, gaming consoles, smartphones, and more. I’m often amazed at how many hours kids spend using these devices every day.
Too much screen time for kids can’t be healthy, can it? Well, the Canadian Paediatric Society’s official recommendation is a maximum of 2 hours of screen time per day for kids over the age of 2. Younger children shouldn’t watch any TV, although a lot of them are watching more than this.
Why Restrict Kids’ Screen Time?
Screen time has been found to cause various behavioral issues such as poor sleep, obesity, and inattention. Kids with ADHD seem to have worse symptoms after screen time.
Also, physical development is critical in kids, and a child who is watching TV or playing video games isn’t outside getting fresh air or exercise.
Children often eat unhealthy snacks while watching the tube, meaning they’re more at risk of poor nutrition, including vitamin D deficiency and obesity. There is plenty of literature with data about how excessive screen time is linked with poorer health.
How to Turn off Screen Time
Remember, the amount of screen time your kids have is entirely up to you. You can use a screen time app on a tablet or smartphone or just plan 1 or 2 hours maximum screen time.
Healthy TV Screen Time Habits for Kids
Here are some great tips for parents concerned their kids are watching too much TV:
- Think about no TV on weekdays, or at least not until after homework is done.
- Don’t keep televisions in kids’ rooms.
- It’s easier to instill healthy screen time habits in younger kids, so start right away.
- Don’t let them watch violent shows since these have been found to increase violence in kids.
- Educational shows with science, nature, history, and so on are always better than stereotype-filled, violent ones.
- Watch television with your child, and you can talk about topics like friendship or sharing with them when you see it on a show. You can also talk about advertising and commercials.
Remember that kids also learn by example, so if you want to instill the concept of healthy kids’ screen time, you will need to be a role model yourself and limit your own watching hours. The same rules should apply to babysitters, grandparents, and other carers.
Screen Time Tips for Kids and Computers
Less screen time for kids is always better, which also applies to devices other than the TV.
Here are some handy tips for computer, tablet, and smartphone screen time:
- Computers are best kept in shared areas rather than in your child’s bedroom. Consider a screen time app as well as online protection, so you know which sites your child is accessing.
- Regardless of the average screen time you prefer for your kids; it might be a good idea to ban screens for a couple of hours before bedtime. Also, keep all screens off during meals.
- Remember, the TV or computer is a machine, not a babysitter. There are plenty of other activities kids can enjoy to keep them busy.
- If you aren’t sure where to start, perhaps plan screen exposure with a 1-week schedule, so you can plan ahead what your child will watch. Older kids can be given the option of an hour of television or an hour of video gaming, perhaps, so they feel involved in the decision.
Finally, since the weather is warming up, encourage them to get outside and enjoy the fresh air!
How much screen time should my kids get?
According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, kids less than two should have no screen time, and kids more than two should have no more than 2 hours a day.
Why restrict kids’ screen time?
Excessive screen time for kids has been associated with poorer language and social development, increased inattention, and violence.
Does screen time for kids impact their physical health?
Yes! Every hour watching a screen, a child is not moving their bodies or getting time outdoors. Excess screen time is linked to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and poor physical health.