Children of all ages spend hours playing games, looking at YouTube videos, and watching television.
And they play these games and watch videos over and over again, for hours on end.
James Bridle, a writer and artist, sums it up as being like crack for our kids, an addiction. “There's something about the repetition, the constant little dopamine hit of the reveal, that completely hooks them in”.
On the other hand, technology and screen time for kids has its benefits:
David Williamson Shaffer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in educational psychology – “If used correctly, tablets have proven to boost test scores, help kids learn faster and make school more enjoyable.”
Here are some of the things you need to know about technology and its impact on your children.
Children find the world of technology alluring…and addicting
For many children, from toddlers up to teens, their day is one constant stream of screen time. The defining line between what is considered technology, and what is not, is quickly diminishing.
Children seem to think that cell phones and video games are part of their daily life. And for good reason – they’ve learned by example.
Most parents use technology themselves every day. Paying bills online, surfing for information, watching movies, and playing games.
Today, there’s no longer any wait time between the technology children have access to each day.
If their parent or caregiver allows it, young children can go from watching one hour of television straight into another hour of a video game…only to spend another hour playing a hand-held electronic game.
That’s a lot of screen time for kids.
For children 10 to 17 years of age, the addiction to technology is even more apparent. As kids get older, they spend even more time plugged in and sitting in front of a screen.
They fall into the habit of multi-screening, where they’re engrossed in two or more types of screen viewing at the same time.
So, now we have kids watching television while browsing on the laptop or tablet.
Look for the signs of addiction in your own children:
- The only thing that makes them happy is being given screen time.
- Screen time is interfering with other things your child should, or could, be doing.
- There’s a conflict between you and your child when screen time is over.
Too much screen time affects sleep
Getting enough sleep, and good quality sleep is crucial for children’s health and well-being.
Technology and screen time, even a few hours before bed, can significantly decrease the amount of time your children sleep.
Watching television before bed, or playing games on a tablet stimulates the mind and keeps the brain active.
This can make it difficult for children to fall asleep and stay asleep without periodic waking. Bedtime routines without screen time are important so that children and adolescents have time to wind down and relax before sleep.
The bright lights of television and electronic devices can also play a negative role in quality sleep for children. It takes children longer to fall asleep after looking at the blue light of screens before going to bed.
Having a healthy bedtime routine without screen time can help your children fall asleep faster and maintain sleep throughout the night.
Sleep has a beneficial effect on your children’s emotions, health, learning potential, and memory.
Some of the consequences of poor sleep patterns in children include difficulties in learning, behavior problems, and hyperactivity during the day.
Screen time and children’s mental health
Both children and adolescents can start to show signs of behavioral and psychological problems if they’re allowed to have too much screen time.
Younger children between the ages of 2 to 5 should only be given 1 hour of screen time each day.
Children over the age of 6 can have a limited amount of screen time as determined by parents, so long as it doesn’t replace other activities, including physical activity.
When they spend more time than recommended with electronic devices, children can become moody and lose interest in other activities, including socializing with family and friends.
This can affect their self-esteem and create other mental health problems such as apathy, anxiety, and hyperactivity that are often diagnosed as depression or ADHD.
The consequences are even more alarming for teens who spend too much screen time immersing themselves in social media.
Research done on adolescents in grades 8 to 12 indicate that teens who spend a lot of time engaging in social media while avoiding other activities are more prone to depression and other mental health issues than those teens who balanced their life with non-screen activities.
There’s enough evidence available to indicate that too much technology can negatively impact the psychological well-being of children and teens, encouraging parents to limit screen time.
Using technology wisely
Whether we like it or not technology is a part of our lives for the foreseeable future. While it’s true that children need to become familiar with technology, it should be done with an understanding of how screen time affects them, both positively and negatively.
Children of all ages love technology, everything from playing on an iPad to watching a DVD. When used appropriately, technology can be beneficial for children.
The results of a study on 4 to 8-year old children show that they learned facts about animals using digital media on an iPad equally as successful as they did without using technology.
As well as being used as a teaching tool, technology can play a positive role in your child’s life in other ways, such as developing fine motor skills and stimulating brain activity.
Technology can be equally as helpful for children in their teen years. When safely monitored, teens can use the internet for school, finding information and studying for tests.
Technology can also let them express themselves creatively, sharing written and visual art in innovative ways that inspire them.
Find a healthy balance of screen time
They start young and as children get older, it appears they spend more and more time looking at a screen, with their minds completely immersed in the images in front of them.
In a world where technology is king, it’s hard to determine what’s an appropriate and safe amount of screen time and what’s too much. Technology has become a central and integral part of our lives…and it’s here to stay.
It would be impractical to suggest that you take away all screen time devices from your children.
However, now that you understand a little more about children and technology, and how screen time affects them, you can check in on your own kids and determine if you need to make some changes.
By setting boundaries and putting limits on screen time, you’ll be able to find a healthy balance between the right amount of technology in your child’s life and too much screen time.