Children have access to smartphones and tablets like never before but concerns remain about the negative impact screens may have on their problem-solving, personal-social skills and other key developments. And these concerns are supported by many research studies which highlight the following issues surrounding excessive screen time:
Development may be stunted
Babies and children grow and develop by interacting with the world around them. Screen time can limit that key engagement, meaning many young children can end up with limited language and communication skills. One study found that children at 24 months and 36 months old had poor social, cognitive, and behavioural development if they spent a lot of time interacting with screen media.
Children may learn less
Many parents allow children to watch educational videos or TV shows on a TV, tablet or mobile phone because they feel this may help with development. But research has shown it may not actually be a positive. Studies suggest that, while babies as young as six months old will engage with content on a screen, they don’t begin to understand it until they’re about two years old. Children under two will learn less from a video than from a real-life interaction with someone. Young children who watch a lot of TV– whether it’s educational content or not – perform worse on reading tests later on.
Quality of sleep can be affected
It’s well-known that the blue light from digital devices can affect our sleep. This type of light reduces melatonin, the hormone that tells us it’s time to get sleepy. One study showed that one-year-olds spend 28 fewer minutes asleep after looking at screens late in the evening.
Poor attention span
Since your smartphone became glued to your hand, have you had problems concentrating? Do you find that you don’t have much of an attention span? That’s because the instant gratification we get from our devices limits our focus and attention spans. And with children, the impact can be wide reaching. If you’re reading your child a bedtime story, for example, they have time to process the words and pictures. But if they’re watching a video, they won’t have time to fully digest the information. And that instant gratification means that, during periods of no screentime, your children’s impulse control can go out of the window.
With this in mind, Cath Kidston has provided tips on how you can help your children to use screens in a positive way.
The World Health Organisation recommends no exposure to screens at all for children under two, apart from video-calling family members. For children aged two to four, no more than an hour a day is recommended.
From two upwards, it’s important to continue to limit your child’s screen time, and as they get into their pre-teen and teenage years, be sure to have dedicated screen-free times like enjoying dinner together.
It’s also important to engage your children in activities that go beyond digital devices, including:
- Day trips out to explore the countryside as a family.
- Regular visits to see family members and friends so they have something to look forward to
- Home activities like arts and crafts, board games, and baking.
- Time spent reading together – this can be when you’re reading them their bedtime story, or a designated hour after school where you read a book of their choice