Here is our summary of some advice from global experts to give a little clarity around how screentime affects your child and how much of it they should be allowed.
First thing to remember; all screentime is not all bad. Let’s agree on that. Our 7-year-old children will be employed in jobs in 2030 that we can’t even conceive of in 2017. Plus, it is certain that digital skills will be essential. It’s the sheer volume of time children are spending on screens that concerns us. Excessive screen time prevents them from doing all the things they need to do – outdoor play, socializing, goofing around, making mistakes, becoming empathetic citizens – to help them become robust and resilient adults. All those things cannot be learned on screens or taught in school.
Experts generally recommend children aged 2-5 years have no more than an hour and children aged 5-18 no more than two hours a day. When you add on daily use for homework for the older children, that totals a good number of hours in front of a screen.
We recommend using the following as a rough guide:
3-7 year olds – half-an-hour to 1 hour a day
7-12 year olds – 1 hour a day
12-15 year olds – 1-and-a-half hours a day
16+ - 2 hours a day
If you’d rather not be limited by a guide, you could follow advice from the American Association of Pediatrics, AAP. They no longer set specific limits, but offer parents guidance in other ways. (http://bit.ly/2jKQ4fo).
The AAP suggest that for children from age 6-teens, parents should decide how much time their child can have on screens based on what works for their family. BUT they must make sure before any screentime is allowed that adequate time has been put aside for daily priorities. These include in 1 hour of physical activity, time for social interaction, downtime, homework, reading, family time, school, and sleep. Anything left can be quality screentime that involves parents.
You will also a couple of useful interactive charts where you can create a media plan for your family.
Balance is the key. Your child needs digital skills, so it’s important to embrace the technology but how?
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CONCERNS?
Weight: If you're in front of a screen, you're not moving. Studies have confirmed that too much screentime contributes to childhood obesity, and that reducing screen time helps reverse the trend. (http://bit.ly/2j2LAle).
Sleep issues: The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned against keeping screens in childrens’ bedrooms, saying that even small screens like phones and tablets can be linked to poor sleep quality. One reason may be that the light emitted by screens delays melatonin release and makes it harder to fall asleep.
Social and emotional development : Research at UCLA found that sixth formers who spent 5 five days away from screens (smartphones, tablets, and computers) scored higher on tests for reading emotional cues, leading us to deduce that excessive screen time impairs social skills
Behavior: Excessive screen use has been linked to shorter attention spans, hyperactivity, ADHD, and aggressive behaviour.
Unhealthy habits: A screen habit can be hard to break. One study looked at the number of hours 4-year-olds spent watching TV and found that the more time they spent watching, the tougher the habit was to break by the time they were age six. As children get older, many parents worry about dependence and addictive tendencies.
The problem we face as parents is working out how much screentime is right for our child and how we monitor it.
WHAT COUNTS AS SCREENTIME?
‘Screentime’ is any time your child spends on any screen or device for fun. Such as ... ipad, smartphone, computer, play station, TV, laptop… Time on screens for homework is not included, but if they tell you they are doing homework and really they are playing FIFA – that’s included!
SUGGESTIONS TO MAKE SCREENTIME HEALTHIER FOR YOUR CHID
How your children use screens: Try and encourage your child to use screens/media in ways that promote interaction, connection and creativity. It’s good to mix things up, get them using lots of different types of media rather than get stuck doing the same thing hour after hour.
Co-viewing/watching /playing with your child is good: Try and spend some time viewing what your child is watching with them, or if they are playing a game, play with them, this sort of interaction and discussion from an early age can help educate your child about media/internet. Research has also found that children learn better from media when they are co-viewing and engaging with a parent / adult. It will also give you a better sense of the sort of things your child enjoys playing and allow you to feel more connected with them. Also a chance to educate them on the risks of being online.
Help them choose media that is worth the time: More than 80,000 apps are labelled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality. Products pitched as ‘interactive’ should require more than ‘pushing & swiping’. Look to organizations like Common Sense Media for reviews about age-appropriate apps and games.
Here are some suggestions from Internet Matters on best educational apps to keep your child safe online - check them out here.
Finally, if all else fails, remember it’s good for children to be bored. They are overscheduled and need time every day to relax and chill out. Don’t always feel you have to entertain your child. It’s good for them to sit and think. They do not to have to be ‘doing’ all the time.
Finally, here’s a quick round up of TOP TIPS from TimeTokens:-
Communication, communication, communication. Although it’s really tempting to give yourself a break with movie or a game (we’ve all done it), make sure you’ve talked to your child and watched what they are actually doing on that screen first. Find out what their favorite game or app is. What are their friends playing? Talk to them about violence and the difference between real life and on-screen worlds.
As long as it is possible, try to ensure screen use happens in a family space so you can keep an eye on what’s going on. We recommend setting a “No screens at the table” policy. (And that goes for you too, don’t forget!) Set that policy early so that even friends who come over leave their phones in the kitchen while eating. Start early with this practice and it will never become contentious.
We’ve all seen how a kids posture can pretzel up when on a screen—slumped in a corner of the couch, or lying in bed. Without nagging, try to get them to maintain decent posture. Think about putting an exercise ball in front of the screen for them to sit on, or an ergonomic chair.
If your child calls you out on your own screen time in, don’t hesitate to talk to them about how your brain and body are fully formed and are not still developing like theirs. Screentime does not have the same negative effects.
Let us know if you have any other juicy tips to share with us. We love hearing from our Time Tokeners!
REFERENCE FOR FURTHER READING
Children’s commissioners report 2017 Growing Up Digital http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/publications/growing-digital
Internet Matters https://www.internetmatters.org/