Technology is a big part of life and almost all homes have screens of some sort. When we talk about screen time, it’s not just sitting in front of the television; it includes lots of different types of technology from game consoles to mobile phones, tablets and computers.
Although technology makes our lives easier in lots of ways, it’s important to make sure our children do not spend too much time looking at screens. That’s because too much screen time can have a negative impact on their mental and physical health, and their developing social and communication skills.
So how much screen time is ok?
The World Health Organisation recommend that children under the age of two have no screen time at all, while children aged two and above should be limited to one hour per day, although less is better.
Of course, there are many apps and videos out there that provide lots of high quality educational content, but it is really important that young children learn for the most part from the people and environment around them. Too much screen time can mean children miss out on opportunities to learn, such as floor play and social contact with parents / carers. These interactions with people and the environment are very important to child development, including speech and language skills.
Screen time can also affect sleep. Sleep is vital for children’s growth, and they need enough sleep to function well, concentrate and feel good. Screens give off a blue light which can reduce the amount of a hormone that makes us feel sleepy (melatonin). This means that screen time, especially before bed time, can make children stay awake longer and miss out on precious sleep hours which they need to develop and grow.
It’s also important to think of what children are watching on screens; remember you can set parental controls on most devices. It’s very important to ensure what children are watching is age appropriate for them and that you supervise all screen time for young children.
So how can you control screen time?
- Ensure that children under the age of two have opportunities to play and develop without a screen
- Ensure that you set time limits for children over the age of two, and give children reminders so that they are aware when their screen time is up
- Make some time to spend together as a family to encourage social interaction (such as mealtimes)
- Share books with your child as an alternative to screen time
- Set a good example by monitoring your own screen time
- Don’t allow screen time at least one hour before bed time
- Don’t reward young children with screen time, instead make time for interactive play with them