Controlling your child’s screen time: How much is too much technology?
As a parent, it can be tough to determine how much screen time is appropriate for your child. Here are some tips to help you find the right balance.
Throughout your parenting journey, technology will evolve and progress. As the first generation to navigate raising children amongst rapid technological advances, parents in today’s digitally-driven world undoubtedly face a whole new set of challenges.
It’s important to understand both the benefits and drawbacks of giving your child access to digital resources. You can also figure out a system that works for you and your family.
Signs that your child is using too much technology
With advances in technology being so recent, the long-term negative effects on children remain somewhat unknown. However, there are several ‘signs’ to look out for, which can act as a guide for when to impose screen time limits.
Losing interest in real-life social arrangements
Your child starts to lose interest in making social interactions in real life as a result of spending an increased amount of time on digital devices.
Excessive screen usage can cause behavioural problems. This could range from a reduced attention span to increased episodes of violence or anger. Too much exposure to violent TV shows, movies, and video games can cause children to become desensitised. You may also begin to notice that they become overly frustrated or angry when screen time is limited.
Technology seems like the only thing that your child is interested in and is all they seem to care or think about.
Not engaging with physical activity
Too much time spent on technology causes increased sedentary behaviour and reduced time spent pursuing physical activities or exercise.
Your child has difficulty sleeping or falling asleep.
It’s important to recognise that these factors are only potential negative effects of excessive screen time usage. A recent report by UNICEF has shown that moderate use of digital technology can be beneficial for children’s mental wellbeing, with children’s social relationships stimulated by digital technology.
A similar report by the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University found that “there is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological wellbeing”. Their findings suggest that it’s not always as simple as limiting screen time. The strongest causes of emotional or social problems are how children use devices, not how much time they spend on them.
Setting screen time rules
Every child and family situation is unique. As such, it can be difficult to prescribe set ‘rules’ on managing screen time - the amount of screen time for children within the same family could even vary. However, if you’re unsure about what screen time limits to put in place, there are some trends and guidelines you could follow:
In the UK, on average, children between the ages of 5 to 16 spend around 2 to 3 hours a day watching television, 1 to 3 hours on the internet, 1 to 2 hours playing video games, and over an hour on mobile phones.
- For children under the age of 5, the World Health Organization have outlined basic recommendations for parents:
- Children under 2 years old should not be using any technology.
- Children aged 3 to 4 are advised to only spend 60 minutes a day on digital devices.
Tips for implementing screen time control
If you’re worried about your child using too much technology, here are some easy-to-implement strategies that could help place limits on screen time.
Put in place digital-free times or zones
This could include digital-free meals, no screens allowed in the car, no phones allowed in bedrooms overnight, or digital detox days or evenings.
Use technology together as a family
If your child is keen to use technology, try and think of ways that you can use it together. A great idea is to watch a film as a family, and then have a discussion afterwards. This allows your child to think and engage with what they’re watching, rather than just passively consuming digital content.
Practice what you preach
It’s important that, as a parent, you limit your own screen time around your children. Telling your child to turn off their video games whilst you’re sitting in front of the TV or at the dinner table won’t do anyone any good. Children learn by example - if they see that you’re actively setting limits on your own screen use, they’re likely to respect your decision and copy your actions.
Final thoughts from Kinhub
The internet and video games can be fun, social spaces, providing children with a creative outlet from a young age. Digital media has become the primary means through which young people play, communicate, receive, create, share information, and express themselves - it’s important to allow your child access to these spaces.
As a parent, there’s little point in overly obsessing about how many minutes a day your children are spending with screens. Most social media platforms have age limits or specific children’s interfaces in place, so it’s easy to ensure your child is consuming age-appropriate content.
As long as you understand what digital media your child is engaging with, you can feel secure knowing that what they’re watching, playing, and reading is high-quality and safe.