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Should You Limit Your Child’s Screen Time?

Should You Limit Your Child’s Screen Time?

It seems that nowadays the big “Parent Taboo” being talked about is how much time you allow your children to watch television, YouTube videos and play video games. It is such an easy go-to when it comes to distracting your children in order to complete tasks like housework or grocery shopping or to help little ones endure long car rides. However, there are parents who give screen time to their children so freely that it serves no other purpose than to entertain the child.

The truth is that prolonged screen time can affect physical health, mental health, cognitive development and social-emotional development. While there is no magic number of minutes or hours that will ensure your child is not affected, the key is to find balance between screen time and real-life activities.

Physical Health

Excessive screen time can lead to physical issues such as sleep problems, sedentary lifestyle and eating issues. Sleep problems may include a lack of sleep, an increase in daytime sleep and poor sleep quality. A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating can cause health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Mental Health and Cognitive Development

Overuse of screen time will eventually rewire the brain over time to require more sensory stimulation in order to activate it. This restructuring of the brain can cause attention deficit issues that can impair academic performance and lead to lower grades.

When it comes to cognitive development, this dampering of the brain’s stimulation levels could lead to anxiety, depression and addiction. Overall, it can cause poor mental well being.

Social-Emotional Development

Ultimately these effects of screen overuse can lead to increased aggression and the desensitization and acceptance of violence. This is not to say that any child that plays violent video games is going to be a violent person – these risk factors are based on an excessive overuse of screen time but should not be ignored all the same.

Finding the Balance

The point of these warnings is not to make you throw your tablet out the window and burn all your child’s PlayStation games. As with any factor that contributes or causes detriment to your child’s life, it’s all about balance.

If you do allow your child to engage in screen time (and that’s totally okay), you can help to balance its use:

Be involved with your child. Play video games or watch television and movies with them. Ask questions to see how your child interprets what they are seeing. Answer any questions they may have.

Create a screen time agreement. Discuss with your child what the appropriate amount of screen time is each day. Implement a time limit on screen time – if this is a struggle with your child, offer rewards for compliance and repercussions for non-compliance.

Plan non-screen activities. You may have to offer your child a fun alternative. Make plans to go outdoors, play board games or visit the local library.

Lead by example. Children learn what they see – if you are spending all your time looking at your phone then why would you expect your children to do less? Be a good role model to your kids and reduce your own screen time.

You Should Limit Your Child’s Screen Time but Don’t Eliminate It

Screen time is not a scary thing – when allowed in moderation, it can be beneficial to your child. Our world is constantly changing and technology is always advancing. Children will some day need technological knowledge in order to succeed in life.

Take the above risks as a warning against the overuse of screen time and allowing your children to play with tablets, smartphones and video games in lieu of experiencing the world around them.