Should Screen Time Be Limited For Children?

As a parent or caregiver, you want the best for your child. You want them to grow up well-adjusted with impeccable social skills and a zest for life. The last thing you want is for them to be glued to a tablet screen, watching videos for hours on end.

In this technological age, it may seem impossible to keep your kiddo away from tablets, phones, and TVs. Not only are today’s youngsters digital natives (they’ve grown up with the Internet) they’re savvier than the generations before them when it comes to using technology. But that doesn’t mean they should spend hours scrolling through TikTok.

So, what’s a parent to do in the fast-paced digital world? Should you limit screen time for your child? The answer is YES.

Why limit screen time for children?

Blue light may sound harmless - it’s what makes screens look so darn clear when you’re scrolling through your phone - however, it has its downsides. According to a Harvard Medical School article, blue light wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythm. And like Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine sang, the rhythm is going to get you (if it’s out of sorts).

The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour biological clock that our bodies run on. For children, their circadian rhythms are a work in progress as their bodies learn when they’re tired, when they’re awake, and how much energy they need to get through their daily activities. When our rhythm is thrown off, sleep will be affected. Moreover, blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our brains that darkness equals tiredness.

Besides messing with melatonin production and blue light putting our circadian rhythms out of whack, screens can stifle your child’s development and lead to problems later on in life. According to the Mayo Clinic, screens can potentially cause a myriad of issues for your child such as:

  • Obesity
  • Behavioral problems
  • Delays in language development
  • Problems developing social skills
  • Violent outbursts
  • Learning and focus issues

How much screen time should my child be allowed?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following guidelines for children’s screen time:

Newborns and infants

For children under two years old, the AAP recommends extreme limits on screen time. Children this age shouldn’t use screens when you’re not present. A video chat with the grandparents every so often is fine but daily screen use is a huge no-no.

Tips:

  • When video chatting, keep the baby out of frame as much as possible. Waving to the grandparents is one thing but making your child do tricks and forcing them to be on camera while they’re squirming isn’t helpful to them and you.
  • If you are watching TV with your child, stick to educational programs. This way they’ll be exposed to great content even if they can’t follow along or understand it.

Toddlers and preschoolers

For the 2-5 set, screen time shouldn’t exceed one hour per day. As with a baby, you should be around when your kiddo is exposed to screens and ensure the content they’re viewing is high-quality.

Tips:

  • High-quality content like educational programs that are interactive and non-violent can do your child some good. They’ll learn about the world around them and pick up some new words to help expand their vocabulary.
  • Cartoons and animated programs are great for kids as long as they’re age appropriate. Sure, some kid-centric cartoons have hidden jokes for adults but save the PG-13 content for when your child is, you guessed it, 13.

School-aged children

Here’s where it gets tricky. School-aged kids may require a laptop or the occasional Zoom lesson for their schooling. Because your child might need to be online and in front of a screen for school, create device-free times and zones in your home. For instance, after dinner could be family reading time where everyone puts away their devices for an hour. You can also impart a ‘no phones in the bedroom after a certain time’ policy or don’t allow phones in the bedroom at all unless they’re needed for homework or studying.

Tips:

  • “But Tina has her own phone!” The older your child gets, the more independent they’ll want to become. Their friend may be gifted a phone on their sixth birthday while you weren’t planning on giving your kiddo a phone until they turned 10. In cases like this, if you must purchase a phone for your child, you can set parental permissions so they can only access certain content and talk to their friends and only their friends.
  • Keep your kid away from social media if you can. This isn’t easy since certain networks have very lax rules on who can join. Plus, most of these platforms don’t do background checks so if you’re eight year old is creating a profile and saying they’re 15, there isn’t anything in place to stop them. Except you. Monitor your child’s screen activities to ensure they’re not talking to creeps online or looking up stuff they shouldn’t lay their young impressionable eyes on.

When should screens be turned off?

If possible, screen time should end 1-3 hours before your child goes to bed. This will aid melatonin production and allow your kiddo a chance to wind down before they hit the hay. Our smart companion, Snorble®, can help keep your child away from screens before bed with the Bedtime Routine features and relaxation activities like mindfulness and yoga.

Snorble isn’t just another screen

Unlike the majority of today’s electronics, Snorble is designed to emit little to no blue light to keep your child’s circadian rhythm in check and won’t confuse their developing brain into suppressing melatonin. Besides ensuring your kiddo gets a good night’s sleep, our cute little buddy also has daytime fun for your children like educational games and exercise activities.

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Sources

Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash