One of the biggest worries for most parents is the increased screen time by children. In today’s digital world, children are exposed to devices like mobile phones, tablets, Kindle book readers, etc. This is apart from television screen time. While there are many benefits of using these devices, there are also concerns. This parent’s guide to screen time will help parents decide how much screen time their children need.

Managing screen time for very young kids

Paediatricians have mixed opinions on screen time.  Internet Matters has highlighted this conflict. ‘There is no safe level of screen time but it doesn’t mean that all screen time is harmful. Lack of evidence has meant that experts have found it hard to recommend a cut-off for children screen time overall.”

They have investigated screen use of 0-5 year olds and summarized some interesting findings including the fact that 52% are online almost 9 hours a week and yet 7 out of 10 parents believe the screen time to be positive and beneficial for the children’s creativity.

Screen time for older kids

There are both benefits and downsides of screen time for kids. The positive benefits include:

  • Screen time allows kids to be entertained while learning at the same time (eg: nursery rhymes, lessons through videos).
  • The use of devices helps to make learning more effective. Kids retain more information and the interest to learn increases by using devices.
  • When screen time is regulated by the parent, it can be beneficial. It can help the parent engage with the child during the learning process.

The negative effects of screen time include:

  • Kids tend to spend long hours on screen time. They prefer screen time about physical play and exercise. This increases the risk of childhood obesity.
  • Exposure to the blue light from the screen can affect sleep.
  • Kids may become disconnected from the real world and prefer to spend time in the online world. This can make them disconnected socially.
  • There are serious risks of exposure to stalkers and cyber-criminals online.

The best way to manage screen time is to regulate it instead of stopping it altogether. Parents need to sit down with kids and explains the pros and cons of screen time and help them make a plan for using screen time. Here’s how it can be done:

  • Screen time should be supplemented with physical activity.
  • Family time should not be compromised by screen time.
  • One day of complete digital detox should be practised once a week or fortnight to prevent addiction.
  • Parents should monitor and regulate screen time for safety reasons.

Screen time isn’t all bad – it can facilitate learning and even mood regulation when used properly, but it’s crucial to work with your children to create a healthy and responsible balance!