Should you set screen time limits for your kids?
Limiting screen time is a big debate amongst the parenting community, so if you’ve ever questioned what you’re doing when it comes to screen limits for your kids you definitely aren’t alone. Did you know nearly half of all children 8 and under own their own tablet and on average spend 2.25 hours a day on digital screens (Source: Common Sense Media).
New research is being released regularly on the impact of screen time on young minds as well as what the optimal amount of screen time is before it can be too much. As with all things to do with parenting, it’s important to do what is best for you and your child so here are some reasons for and against screen time limits.
Whilst your little one is under the age of three, development is happening rapidly. At this age it’s important for children to explore the world around them and get a better understanding of their environment and how adults live their lives which leads on to imitating human behaviour like walking and talking. Excessive screen time may inhibit a child’s ability to observe and experience the typical everyday activities they need to engage with in order to learn about the world, leading to a kind of “tunnel vision,” which can be detrimental to overall development.
Similarly, studies have shown that children under 2 learn less from a video than when learning from another person, and it appears that although children will watch the TV screen by 6 months, understanding the content does not generally occur until after age 2. This means that although they can be engaged in a screen they aren’t actually learning from it. From the ages of 18 months to three years language development expands rapidly, if the screens are on these little ones aren’t engaging in conversation with adults who can help their language develop effectively.
There is also the impact screens can have on childrens (and adults) sleeping patterns. Blue light from screens is proven to delay sleep, meaning children who use a screen right before bedtime or in bed might struggle to fall asleep. One study found that 6 to 12 month old babies who were exposed to screen in the evening had significantly shorter nighttime sleeps than those who had no evening screen exposure.
On the other hand, if your children are older you may not choose to limit screen time and you wouldn’t be alone in doing so.
By insisting on strict time limits and monitoring children’s activities online you can quickly find your family battling an ongoing power struggle where children no longer feel trusted or respected. As our children grow older it’s important to recognise their personal boundaries and stalking their every move online doesn’t respect these needs. Don’t take this the wrong way, it’s still more important than ever to ensure children are safe online and this comes from educating them about content, and that no one has the right to bully them, humiliate them or invade their personal space.
With strict limits in place and a constant power struggle at home it has been found that older children and pre-teens are much less likley to speak out about issues they are facing online. Meaning that by looking out for our children we could also be isolating ourselves from them and positioning ourselves as people they cannot come to about anything for fear of getting in trouble or having harsher boundaries put on tech use.
You may also find that by not introducing strict rules you can build a lot of trust and respect with your children. Work with your children to set boundaries if you want some, such as not using a phone whilst crossing the road or having tech free time at the dinner table. This can lead to a much healthier relationship with your children then creating strict limits and rules that they are constantly fighting against.
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