How much is Too Much Screen Time?
Parents in this newly emerging digital era have more to think about than before: smartphones, tablets, and PC’s, with many educational and fun contents. Usually, these gadgets come in handy in keeping our energetic children engaged and calming them down. Yet as more cases of child tech-addiction get broadcasted, parents start to worry — ‘so, how much screen time should I allow for my child?’
It’s Content — Research Findings
One point to keep in mind for all parents is that the screen time itself is less important than content. Main concern is what the child is doing on the device, rather than for how long. Studies from Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University, University of Michigan and London School of Economics agree on this point.
Is your boy or girl watching something like Sesame Street or Peppa Pig, (age-appropriate, educational and entertaining)? Then you can relax and just decide how long you will allow him or her to watch. However, even 3 minutes shouldn’t be allowed if the child is surfing through YouTube channels or clicking on Amazon.
Some only focus on overall screen time, while others don’t limit the time as long as the kid is watching ‘good stuff’. In my opinion, both screen time and the content should be carefully monitored.
Start With 40 Minutes
Doctors from American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend a maximum of one hour of “high-quality programming” for children under 6. Maximum one hour so I would recommend that parents start with 40 minutes per day. It could be 20 minutes after the child gets home from daycare or preschool, then another 20 minutes after dinner.
Here are some tips :
- Set a routine time and zone for devices Example: After coming back from preschool on the living room sofa every day for 40 minutes.
- Limit by episode or round of games.
Concept of time is blurry to many kids. Tell your child “Let’s watch one episode of Peppa Pig before we read the book. OK?”
- Prepare something fun before your child finishes usage
To avoid temper tantrums, divert attention to something new right after the device use. Play-dough, coloring book, or playing with toys can be some examples.
- Be firm and repeat, repeat, repeat.
When the child begins to whine, just say ‘No’ in a firm but warm way, just like you do when your child wants too much sweets. Stand by the rule that you set and repeat it until it becomes a habit in daily routine.
- Get support from technology
If you need to leave your child alone with the device, then make use of the apps for managing children’s screen time and contents. Just type in ‘Parental Control’ in app stores and they will pop up! It basically limits the time and only allows safe contents for your child.
Useful Links and More on Digital Learning
- Common Sense Media (America’s Biggest NGO on digital learning with parenting tips and guidelines) www.commonsensemedia.org
- Parenting for a Digital Future (London School of Economics) http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/
- University of Michigan Health Blog (article related to screen time) https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/aap-when-your-kids-should-and-shouldnt-use-digital-media
- Harvard Graduate School of Education (article on child’s smartphone use) https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/02/when-give-your-child-smartphone
- Ted Talk by Sara Dewitt on “3 fears about screen time…” https://www.ted.com/talks/sara_dewitt_3_fears_about_screen_time_for_kids_and_why_they_re_not_true
✏ Written by Yoo-Young Kim from Odinga