Not All Screen Time for Kids Is As Bad As You Think

Digital screen time for kids has become an inseparable part of parents’ lives. Today’s children are growing up with technology. Regardless of whether they are toddlers, school-age kids, or teenagers.

Managing kids’ media use causes anxiety in many parents, leaving them wondering: how much screen time for kids is too much?

Nowadays, you are likely to be affected by it more than usual. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools, afterschool activity centers, and other locations where your children could engage with peers in person and develop or learn new skills are no longer a means of disconnecting children from screens.

So, you may find yourself allowing your children more screen time than usual simply because you need some uninterrupted time to get things done. Especially, if you work from home and need to ensure that bills get paid.

This can lead to increased levels of anxiety as well as feelings of guilt. Is it too much screen time for your kids? Should you be actively teaching them or engaging them in activities instead? Is this time affecting your children’s knowledge, education, and future possibilities?

They are all valid questions, and screen time inevitable plays into it.

We’re here to assure you that things are not as bad as they may seem. Studies show that most parents are more concerned about limiting their kids’ screen time than the content they are engaging with.

When the latter is what actually matters much more.

So, screen time can help your kids advance during the pandemic. Your input is needed to ensure it’s quality, but you don’t have to be there 24/7 to ensure your children are spending it well.

The Quality of Screen Time for Kids Is More Important than Its Quantity

“Rather than trying to minimize screen time, I think parents and teachers should try to maximize creative time.”

–Mitchel Resnick, MIT Media Lab

Recent research suggests that it is the nature of the screen time rather than the length that matters.

So, instead of worrying about the device use limit, parents should think: is my child learning? Will hi-tech activities engage my child in artistic expression and creative thinking? Will they be able to learn and develop skills that can help them advance their future career prospects?

Parents should not focus on the amount of time their kids spend using technologies. Rather, they should pay more attention to what their children are using them for. It is what they do online that matters.

For example, your 11-year old son can spend hours playing a violent video game, browsing social media, or watching videos on YouTube. Or instead, he can be researching research for a school project, taking an online course, learning how to code, or playing an educational, mind-developing game. Not all of this time is going to be the same.

Digital Technology: Opportunities and Risks

We live in a highly technological society. Modern technologies have changed the whole concept of the world we live in. It ranges from entertainment and art to education and economics.

Modern technologies have brought a significant number of improvements to traditional school curriculums. For instance, they allow schools to offer online learning programs. They can engage kids to gain, evaluate, and expand their knowledge while also developing their social skills working and collaborating with other students remotely.

In addition, these learning programs can also be accessed from home. Thus, the entire family can take part in the learning process. As a result, you may end up being more involved in your child’s education than you would have in a traditional classroom setting.

A recent UNICEF report examined the online experiences of kids and teenagers around the world. The results suggest that children under 18 represent 1 in 3 Internet users globally.

The report also revealed that online resources make young users the most connected generation today. Digital media provides almost limitless access to information, education, and work.

According to another report from the London School of Economics, screen time does not lead to isolation from family and friends. Ir can happen, but not always.

The report actually suggests that digital media can help bring families together. It can happen as parents and children play games, use apps, or watch documentaries together.

Despite the benefits, make sure to have your guard up and know what is going on. Digital resources bring serious dangers as well. Harms such as sexual abuse, child pornography, and sex trafficking are intensified by the Internet nowadays. Especially in the developing world.

In developed countries, there are also rising concerns about the connections between Internet use and mental health problems. These can be anxiety or depression in youth, as well as many others. So, it is essential to communicate with your child to make sure that no issues go unnoticed.

How Can We Make the Most out of Screen Time?

The authors of the study mentioned above believe that the right approach in addressing these concerns can be in “not too much, not too little” line. We should focus more on the nature of kids’ screen time than on the amount of time they spend online.

For example, many programs have a long tradition of developing creative learning and critical thinking in children. One of them is Scratch developed by Mitchel Resnick and MIT Media Lab.

Scratch is a free programming language and an online platform. It allows kids to use digital media to create their own interactive games, stories, and animations. Children can use them independently as well as via online programs or courses where experienced professionals guide students.

This only confirms that smartphones, iPads, tablets, and computers can be used to spark creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

According to Jenny Radesky, a developmental Behavioral Pediatrician and the author of the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children, the most important is for parents to act as “media mentors” and teach their children how to “use media to create, connect, and learn”.

Will Screen Time Affect Your Child’s Health and Wellbeing

The effects of the pandemic and lockdown on children’s health and wellbeing are being widely discussed throughout the media. So, you may be wondering if screen time could make things worse. But will it?

Not necessarily. Studies suggest that screen-time limits may have nothing to do with your child’s ability to grow and develop.

The Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University 2017 study followed 20,000 U.K. parents of children aged 2 to 5 over the course of a month. It showed no correlation between limiting screen time for kids and their wellbeing.

While researchers did find small links between moderately higher screen use and children’s moods, the study found that imposing limits on screen time for kids did not result in positive outcomes. The findings suggest that how a family uses the devices is more important than the amount of time they spend in front of the screen.

So, once again, it comes down to quality over quantity.

In Conclusion

Screen time in itself won’t prevent your child’s ability to thrive. However, it is essential to provide opportunities for kids to develop critical thinking, imagination, and creativity while browsing.

Kids are growing up surrounded by technology. Therefore, it is crucial to help them learn the concepts of media use. Parents play a critical role in teaching these skills.

Visit commonsensemedia.org for guidance about safe content for children and families.