Should parents be concerned about Screen Time?
According to a 2020 survey in the US by Common Sense, children between 0 and 8 spend an average of 2 hours in front of screens, watching videos or playing games every day.
Let’s do the math and look at the statistics from a different angle.
Young children need to sleep - a lot - and it is very important for their growth. Children need between 10-12 hours of sleep per night to ensure they are well-rested. So, given the amount of time children are asleep, what are they doing during the remaining hours?
Well, they eat, play indoors and outdoors, study, go to nursery or school, interact with their caregivers or siblings, and ... watch a screen, for 16% of the time they are awake!
Put this figure in perspective: this represents a full year spent awake in front of a screen by the time children are 8 years old!
This is quite a startling statistic, and it should be something parents and carers are taking seriously.
The Impacts of Screen Time
There is much evidence of screen time's negative impacts on children.
Excessive screen time has been proved to be linked to addictive tendencies and obesity. It can also have a serious impact on children's emotional wellbeing and communication skills. When a child spends most of their life looking at a screen, they can lack the basic skills of holding eye contact while engaging with others and having a meaningful conversation.
And more recently, pediatrics are also pointing out the opportunity cost for children. At an age when their brain is developing the most, they need to spend time exploring, experimenting, and discovering the world with all their senses, which does not really happen when just sitting in front of a video.
Caregivers can Help to Cut Down on Screen Time
It is time to disconnect, here are three small steps that can make a huge difference:
Be a role model: Caregivers' screen habits directly reflect on children. Make sure to control your own screen time and give 100% attention to your children when you engage with them directly!
Reserve weekly screen-free time: setting aside screens during each weekend to do something as a family opens the door to exploration and bonding. Don't over-rely on technology, allow for big questions and accept the challenge of discovering the answer together with no screens involved (go to the library, ...)
Set up a routine - There are moments in the day when screens should simply not be allowed. How about forbidding them during dinner time? Also disconnecting screens during the run-up to bedtime is very important. This gives your children time to let their minds settle ready for a good night’s sleep. Reserve this time to bond with your children, over a good book!
Building proper screen time habits for your children will benefit them for their whole lives. Let's engage with our children again.