Screen Time & Child Development – What Are The Impacts?
Let’s face it, your kids are going to watch screens. You are going to feel a little guilty about it. That is okay. We all can appreciate what allowing children to have screen time does for us – make dinner, throw a load of laundry in, answer emails that are already delayed – and so forth. There are countless reasons to let the tablet entertain your child for a little while. It is OK to give yourself a little breathing room.
That said, we have to be careful. This babysitter so-to-speak, can actually be quite costly. Have you ever left your child watching a show or playing a game you’ve approved, just to come back and find they are watching or playing something you would not have approved? You see, the babysitter – the screen – has cost your child something…a meaningful activity, which has just been displaced. Which is ok! Not every moment is a learning experience.
We just have to be careful; we must set limits (30 minutes after dinner, 90 minutes on weekend mornings, special allowance for road trips or vacations). You must choose what you feel is best for your family. Once these limits are set, we should never, ever exceed them. Take a dog, for example, that was fed once or twice from the table – the dog will then continue to beg when you are eating. The door has just opened, and it will continue to widen if our children do not see that the screen time is a privilege, not a right.
Proven ADVERSE effects of excessive screen time on children’s development
Do you recognize any of these concerns with your children?
- Lack of motivation, or difficulty focusing and becoming motivated
- Grades, general academic performance
- Poor nutrition and exercise, lowered energy levels
- Sleep patterns
SUBSTANTIAL BENEFITS associated with Limiting Screen Time
A study of over 1,300 Third to Fifth graders found that parental monitoring of media has ripple effects extending across several different areas of children’s lives immediately and into the future.
Children whose parents set more limits on the amount and type of content of media were now:
- Getting better grades and performance in school, more sleep
- Had gained less weight (lowering their risk of obesity)
- Exhibited more helpful and cooperative social behaviors
- Less aggressive with their peers (as seen by the classroom teachers).
This study demonstrates that setting and enforcing limits on time and content has POWERFUL benefits for children’s academic, emotional, physical and social performance!
Screen time recommendations by age
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends limits on screen time based on a child’s age:
- Children younger than 18 months old: Zero screen time, except for video chatting with family members.
- Children ages 18 months to 24 months old: Limit screen use to watching educational programming with a caregiver.
- Children ages two to five years old: Limit non-educational screen time to about 30 minutes per day.
- Scientific American – Kids on Screen-Time Diet Lost Weight and Got Better Grades
- JAMA Network™ – Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test
- National Institutes of Health – High amounts of screen time begin as early as infancy, NIH study suggests
- AACAP – Screen Time and Children
- Living Montessori – Social & Emotional Development.