We’ve heard it for years – too much screen time is bad for kids’ mental and physical health. But recent research finds little evidence actually correlating screen time to negative physical, social, or emotional results. So, who should we listen to? And how much is too much?
The good news is that newer research actually highlights many benefits of screen time. Research conducted by experimental psychologist Andrew Przybylski at the Oxford Internet Institute found that kids who spent a few hours on their devices each day exhibited better well-being than those who spent none at all. Another researcher, UC Irvine psychologist Candice Odgers, agrees, pointing out that, for many kids, time spent online is positive. Says Odgers, “… if you go in and talk to kids, a lot of them are turning to the internet for social support, information about symptoms, and reported feeling better about themselves when they were online than when they were off. They actually were going online to feel better.”
But it feels like there should be limits, right? We’ve all seen kids who seem physically incapable of pulling themselves away from their tablets and exhibit frustration, short-temperedness, or rude behavior after spending time on their digital devices. And we all believe in balance for our kids, right? Exploring all that childhood has to offer, on and off screen?
The most recent guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that “digital media has both positive and negative effects on healthy development.” And offers the following screen time limits, by age:
0-18 Months – No screen time other than video chatting.
18-24 Months – Limit screen time to high quality programming enjoyed together – not alone.
2-5 Years – 1 Hour a day of high-quality programming.
6 Years and Up – Consistent limits on time and type of media viewed.
For those of us with older kids, tweens, and teens, these guidelines may seem a little impractical. But don’t panic! The experts seem to agree that different solutions work for different families and that the answer to that burning question, “How much screen time is too much?” is actually pretty personal.
Below are our best tips and tricks for managing screen time, but remember, the bottom line seems to be “Mother (or Father, or Grandma, or Care Giver) knows best.”
1.It’s All About Balance
Screen time should not interfere with homework time, physical exercise, chores, or family time. Prioritize what’s important and let screen time be just one of many experiences your child has each day.
2. Check in Often
You know your kids best. Monitor their behavior during and after screen time – are they irritable? Tired? If so, cutting back might be beneficial. If they’re able to easily move on to another activity, a little more screen time might not hurt them.
3. Model Positive Limits
This one’s tough, but there’s something to the ol’ show, don’t tell. Let your kids see you participating in unplugged activities during your down time. Put that phone down and pick up a book, call a friend, work on aproject, or play a game.
4. Watch the Snacking
It’s easy to succumb to hand-to-mouth eating when entranced by a video or game. Help your kids learn healthy eating habits and portion control by making screen time snack free.
5. Turn It Off Before Bedtime
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.” Cut your kids off from screen time at least an hour before bedtime – try reading or listening to quiet music instead.
So all in all, enjoy your screen time, but be responsible about it and set a good example for your little learner!
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