Screen time is the amount of total time in a day that a person spends looking at a screen. This includes TV, mobile phones, iPads, video games, computers and laptops.
A lot of doctors – especially paediatricians – have been concerned about the increasing amount of time that adults and children spend looking at some or the other form of screen. There are a lot of ill-effects of too much screen time – much more than we as parents realize. Taking these into consideration, experts have established certain guidelines to answer questions like ‘how much screen time should kids have’ to ‘how can I limit my child’s screen time’
Screen Time Recommendations Chart
As a parent, you may have wondered time and again, exactly how much screen time is healthy? The American Academy of Paediatrics
has set the following limits for screen time with respect to age of the child.
Table: Screen Time Recommendations Chart
|Age of Child ||Hours of Screen Time
|Birth to 18 months
|18 to 24 months
||A few minutes of co-watching with explanation
|2 to 5 years
||1hr high quality (i.e., educational) screen time per day
||approximately 2hrs per day
Child neurologist Jane Tavyev Asher
explained in an interview that many child neurologists are of the strong opinion that children below 2 years of age should not be allowed any screen time at all. Developmental paediatricians believe that a child should not get any screen time till they reach an age where they are able to talk about or explain what’s happening on the screen. That puts the age limit to 3 years.
On the other hand, parents of children this age should refrain from indulging in screen time themselves when their child is in the same room, as it exposes the child to passive screen time, which is equally bad.
Experts’ Recommended Tips to Control Screen Time
Keeping the above in mind will solve more than half the problem for most parents. However, how exactly do you enforce these screen time rules and guidelines about screen time in the house?
Strict Screen Time Rules for the Addicted Family!
Screen time control is hard to establish, for understandable reasons. Every phone app that we use, every TV program we see, every article or video we consume on the Internet, is designed
to be addictive. There is every chance, hence, that you and your family are already addicted to screens! However, if you’re serious about screen time control change your approach: instead of refraining, make access to screen time difficult or laborious.
Screen time and physical activity
For every hour that your child spends with a device, mandate them to spend at least a couple of hours outside the house, engaging in some form of physical activity: it could be a sport, or just running around with the dog, or jumping up and down on the trampoline.
#DidYouKnow: Giving your kids some green time is not just a good idea; it is actually imperative for their physical and cognitive development. Health experts and thinkers everywhere are stressing the need to send children to the park and encourage them to enjoy the outdoors. Brands like Goodknight have also joined this mission to help moms encourage outdoor play for kids. By offering simple solutions like the Goodknight Fabric Roll-On, whose 4 dots on the clothes are enough to keep mosquitoes away for 8 hours, this brand is helping parents recreate the magic of playground time. After all, when we were children, nothing kept us away from the park – not screens, not mosquitoes!
Screen time and green time
Did you know? The colour green is the gentlest, most pleasing and most relaxing to look at for the human eyes, because green falls bang in the middle of the visible spectrum. This means, the colour is neither too dark nor too bright, and serves to relax eyes and take away eye strain. This is why we feel rejuvenated when we spend time in nature. For every hour that you and your child spend with a screen, make sure you get at least equal amount of ‘green’ time with nature.
No plug points in the bedroom
This one may seem difficult to implement, and a bit too strict. But it is one of the surest ways to cut night screen time. No plug points means no phones either. Of course, you will need plug points for devices like air-conditioners, washing machines, hair dryers, mosquito repellents, etc. For big home appliances, have only an equal number of plug points. For personal use devices, have only one common plug point. And whatever you do, do not have any plug point near the bed!
Build a media corner or media room
This is a new concept you can embrace. Depending on how much space you have, allocate a certain area or room in your house to all kinds of media. This means, your laptops, computers, iPads, phones, every screen belong to this room. While this may seem unnecessary, it makes monitoring of screen time easy. It will also automatically prevent you from taking devices to other rooms of the house, such as the kitchen, or bedroom.
No personal devices
Except for a phone, everybody in the family can get into the practice of using common devices – this means only one laptop, one computer, one iPad per family. Not only will this automatically limit screen time, it will also foster cooperation and patience among all family members.
WiFi Passwords should be private
Do not reveal the WiFi password to your children. Keep regularly updating the password.
Prepaid phone plans with limited data
So long as you are paying your child’s phone bills, you can and should control how much access you give them! Set a daily and/or monthly data limit for your child’s phone.
American Academy of Paediatrics Guidelines
The following guidelines have been set after careful review of several studies about screen time conducted by notable universities and research groups.
Lead by example
A recent survey conducted by Common Sense Media revealed that adults spend more than 9 hours a day looking at screen (not counting work hours), and more than 80% of them still think they are good role models for their children when it comes to screen time! (Don’t believe that? See the full interview of James Steyer, CEO, Common Sense Media here.) The first and foremost step, hence, towards setting screen time rules is to limit your own screen time.
No TV and computers in the bedroom
Keep all kinds of screen away from the bedroom, so that once you retire for the day, you are away from temptation to look at any screen.
No computer during homework
Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not allow children to use the computer when doing their homework.
No TV at the dining table
This is a very common habit in many households. Watching TV while eating makes us eat more, and gulp food down without chewing, leading to a host of health problems.
Use screen time as a reward
This is a parenting approach every parent should adopt. As a parent, always remember that: screen time is not a right, it is a privilege. Make your children earn screen time through positive, constructive behaviours such as completing chores, completing homework, etc.
Set a curfew
No screens for 2 hours after waking up, and 2 hours before going to bed, can be one curfew pattern you can try out. However, this will depend on the daily schedule of you and your family. Establish a rule that works best for you.
Other Tips By Experts
Encourage children to exercise self-control
Mother of two teenaged children, Dr. Delany Ruston (Physician, Writer and Director of documentary ‘Screenagers’), believes it is all about ‘teaching kids self-control’. Unlike what we suspect, this is absolutely doable, and the key to this is: do NOT buy children a device unless you are sure they are going to be able to exercise control. Rather than simply taking things away and getting mad at your child, encourage them to talk to you about it. (Watch her entire video here).
Keep devices away to control childhood obesity
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the last thirty years.“One of the most common reasons kids are obese or overweight is screen time,” Dr. David Geier (Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist) explained in this video. It is also important to engage in activities together as a family.
Also Read: Real Mom Preeti Chauhan Gives Tips To Fight Childhood Obesity
Build screen time into the schedule
Paediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital Dr. Michael Rich says,“There are a lot of things (children) like to do and (parents) can balance and prioritise them. By encouraging your kids to prioritise their interests – and that includes screen time – you’re teaching them time management, and that’s something that we can all benefit from." Rather than how much screen time, it is important to monitor what the screen time is for.
Watch out for signs of too much screen time
Paediatrician Dr. Jacquelyn Kuzminski says, "Parents need to look into (...) whether other things are being sacrificed, like sleep, or time with schoolwork, or socialising and communicating with people.” If your child is not engaging in other activities along with screen time, that is a sure sign of too much screen time.
Why Should You Be Concerned About Screen Time
Some of the tips and suggestions mentioned above may seem unnecessary or extreme to many parents. Others may find their resolve growing weak with every sob that comes out of their child for having their screen time limited or curtailed. If you are one such parent, the next bit of information is going to help you.
The best way to strengthen your resolve of limiting screen time, and not giving in to your child’s tantrums, is to realise just how deeply it affects both you and your child. Screen time affects children and adults on two levels – physical, and mental.
Physically, screen time is associated with –
- chronic pain in the neck, back, wrists, fingers (as a result of too much phone time)
- chronic headaches
- poor vision (owing to constriction of eye blood vessels)
- insomnia (the ‘blue light’ emitted by screens affects melatonin production, a hormone that induces sleep)
- obesity (owing to remaining glued to one place)
Mentally, several studies have established that increased screen time is a major cause of –
- increased suicide rates
- increased number of teenagers suffering from depression
- increased feeling of dissatisfaction, restlessness, anger, frustration
- increased tendency of engaging in damaging behaviours
In an interview with Tom Bilyeu, author Simon Sinek
explained - ”Engagement with social media releases dopamine.”
Dopamine is a chemical that is linked to reward-motivated behaviour; in other words, dopamine makes you feel good
. And so, Simon explained further, “When significant stress starts to show up in their life, they are not turning to a person, they are turning to a device.”Because of the instant hit of dopamine that the internet, and social media offers, increasingly more number of children are using devices to cope with adolescence, rather than using adolescence as a training period to acquire life skills that will ensure a better quality of life and relationships.
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As a parting thought, we would like to further say: remember that screen time is in fact not a ‘necessity’ at all. We, and the generations before us, all grew up without screens, and we’ve turned out just fine, haven’t we?