7 Reasons Why You Should Limit Your Child's Screen Time (The RIGHT Way)

7 Reasons Why You Should Limit Your Child's Screen Time (The RIGHT Way)

Child's Screen Time (The RIGHT Way)

Screens are everywhere these days. There’s probably one in your pocket now and more than a few within sight (like right where you're reading this!). With so much digital stimulation competing for our attention—and especially the attention of our kids—it’s essential to discuss the impacts and limits.

Is limiting screen time a priority in your home? Or is your child's screen time unrestricted? It's a debate in many homes these days, especially for those with young children. While some argue for “no screen time” rules, others let the tablet help with some babysitting so parents can have a few distraction-free hours. But this practice can sometimes have lingering consequences.

Here are 7 reasons why you should monitor and limit the amount of screen time your children are allowed:

  1. Too much screen time can affect brain development.
  2. Screen usage can disrupt brain development.
  3. Screen time can lead to decreased physical activity.
  4. Technology can have negative impacts on social and emotional wellbeing.
  5. Excessive screen use can lead to behavior problems.
  6. Children may be exposed to inappropriate content.
  7. Too much screen time can lead to addiction.

Why Should Parents Limit Screen Time?

We know that technology has many benefits—enhancing learning in schools, allowing our children to stay connected with friends and family from afar, and offering ways for parents to stay in touch with their kids in case of an emergency.

However, recent studies have also shown that screen time is on the rise, especially among teenagers, who spend an average of more than seven hours per day on non-learning device usage. And with the increased time spent on electronic devices, children are experiencing side effects previous generations didn't have to deal with.

1. Too Much Screen Time Can Affect Brain Development

A 2023 study showed that there can be significant effects on a child's cognitive functioning and critical thinking skills when you introduce digital media too young. The same study indicated that "the age at which kids engage with media (meaning any type of media, including television) on a regular basis has fallen from four years in 1970 to four months in the present day."

Health professionals have concerns about how exposing very young children to digital screens too early can affect their development, including:

  • delayed expressive language skills
  • limited attention span and ability to focus
  • hindered impulse control
  • inability to learn social skills and develop empathy

The data is so concerning, in fact, that the World Health Organization recommends zero screen time for children under the age of two and less than one hour per day for children between the ages of two and four.

2. Screen Usage Can Disrupt Sleep Patterns

Adequate sleep (both in quantity AND quality) is incredibly important for overall well being. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends between 9 and 11 hours of sleep for children between the ages of 6 and 13 years old, and teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.

Handheld screen time can lead to poor sleep habits and can significantly disrupt the quality of a child's sleep by making them more alert and raising their heart rate. Additionally, the blue light emitted by digital devices blocks the body's ability to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep.

Here are some recommendations by the AAP for how you can help your child get more quality sleep:

  • Avoid using electronic devices at least one hour before bed.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime schedule and routine.
  • Avoid solo screen use in the evenings, and instead make it a family activity if you do engage in screen usage, like family movie night.

3. Screen Time Can Lead to Decreased Physical Activity

While some technology can encourage physical activity—like kid's smartwatches with fitness trackers or pedometers—most devices hinder physical activity rather than promote it. If kids are at home on their tablets or watching television rather than outside riding their bikes or playing with friends, they aren't getting the adequate amount of physical activity their bodies need.

The more time kids spend in front of screens, whether it's for gaming, watching TV, or scrolling through social media, the less time they have for active play, sports, and other physical activities, which is key for a healthy body. It helps with muscle and bone development, keeps the heart healthy, and can even help maintain a healthy weight. When kids are spending a lot of their day sitting down in front of a screen, they're missing out on these benefits.

4. Technology Can Have Negative Impacts on Social and Emotional Wellbeing

The psychological effects of excessive screen time in children are profound. A 2021 study measured the psychological and emotional effects of increased screen time during the COVID lockdown (with increases up to 15%) and found that excessive screen time led to increases in:

  • internet addiction
  • gaming disorder
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • irritability

Another key concern for parents of children who use social media is cyberbullying; or the use of technology to "harrass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person." Cyberbullying is on the rise, and the CDC reports that over 13% of adolescents have made a serious suicide attempt due to cyberbullying. It's a serious issue that has parents rightly concerned.

If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing any type of bullying, including cyberbullying, you can reach out to the Crisis Text Line for support.

5. Excessive Screen Use Can Lead to Behavior Problems

Have you ever heard the term "tablet zombie"? It's a term parents are using to describe the transformation that happens when their children spend too much time on their tablets. "We had to take the iPad away for a while because my child was turning into a tablet zombie."

Too much screen time, especially in young children, can have a pretty noticeable impact on a child's mood and behavior. The effects might not be obvious right away, but over time, parents and teachers start to see patterns.

When kids are used to the fast-paced games and videos they see online, real-life tasks that require prolonged attention or face-to-face interactions can become frustrating for them. This can show up in their academic work, hobbies, or any task that doesn't offer instant gratification.

6. Children May be Exposed to Inappropriate Content

When children have unsupervised access to the internet, there's no telling what they might come across. From violent games to sexually explicit photos or videos, there are plenty of things online that we don't want our children exposed to. And the more time spent online, the more likely they are to encounter dangerous content.

Although there's no way to completely prevent them from seeing something you don't want them to, there are some things you can do to monitor and protect your children's screen time, such as setting up parent controls on devices and streaming platforms, using apps that track and limit screen time, and regularly talking with your kids about online safety and digital citizenship.

7. Too Much Screen Time Can Lead to Addiction

Screen addiction refers to a situation where a person engages in screen time to a point where they become dependent on it and it affects their quality of life. Although the term "screen addiction" itself isn't explicitly recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), "internet gaming disorder" is listed as an area of concern in which some people become preoccupied with certain features of the internet, especially online games.

If you feel like your child may be addicted to their phone or digital device or they are showing signs such as neglecting their responsibilities, mood changes, or constantly checking their phone, there are some techniques you can try together as a family to break a phone addiction. This may include things like establishing screen-free times or screen-free zones, such as no devices at the dinner table or in bedrooms.

How to Balance Screen Time With Other Activities

How much screen time is too much? There's no straight answer to that question, because not all screen time is equal and not all families have the same needs and values when it comes to limiting screen time.

But one thing we do know is that young children learn by watching others, so setting screen time limits for yourself and modeling healthy behaviors like engaging in real-life interactions with others can help encourage your children to do the same. Sit down as a family (even with your young kids) and decide together what limitations you want to put in place.

Once you've established some guidelines around when, where, and how much your kids can engage in screen time, you can plan some other activities to do together offline. Go on a hike together, take a family picnic to the park, or get the neighborhood kids together for a game of flag football.

So, why should parents limit screen time? Balancing screen time alongside other healthy activities can help improve your child's physical and emotional well being, leading to better sleep patterns, enhanced focus, stronger social skills, and a more active lifestyle.


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