Effects of Screen Time on Children
Play the movie forward–your child is three years old, four, and now five years old. They engage in three or more hours a day of screen time and experience little time outside each week, in addition to very little imaginative play. Fast forward to this child in middle school, and here is what we see: a child that has no idea how to self-entertain, engage socially, or simulate into the world of reality. Now, they are not only awkward middle schoolers but also lost in the world as they know it. The culprit is “screen time.”
Now, don’t get us wrong. The purpose of this story is not to instill fear or guilt. The goal is to inform. As engaged and educated parents, we constantly look for answers and ways to enhance our children’s learning and development. That is why you’re here. Welcome.
At The Cognitive Emporium, Kyra Minichan digs deep into cognitive development. She helps kids refocus and filter brain stimuli to help the brain rebuild so it can process correctly. A large part of her work looks at screen time’s effects on a child’s social and emotional development. This blog will dig into the adverse effects of screen time and provide four questions to ask to determine screen time limits for your child.
What Qualifies as Screen Time?
Screen time is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching a TV or iPad, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is a sedentary activity, meaning your child is physically inactive while sitting down. Alarmingly, most American children spend three hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can often total between five to seven hours a day.
Negative Effects of Screen Time
Unfortunately, time has taught researchers that there are numerous negative effects of screen time. And we’re not just talking about kids! Much of this is true for adults as well. The good news? As we learn more as a society, we are better informed to guide and educate our children.
Screentime can cause the following adverse effects:
- Raise your child’s risk for obesity and gaining too much weight
- Make it harder for your child to sleep at night
- Raise your child’s risk for attention problems, depression, and anxiety.
Defining Screen Time Boundaries
It’s never too late to define screen time boundaries with your kids. Whether your child is three or thirteen years old, defining screen time boundaries can always be beneficial. Everything is about balance. Ask yourself these simple and helpful questions as you consider when and how much screen time your child engages with.
- Are they outside at all during the day? Many children are not outside at all during the day. In addition to this typically increasing screen time, it can also result in a vitamin D deficiency.
- Are they playing independently, self-entertaining, or performing imaginative play during the day?
- What extracurricular activities are they engaged in every week? Think gymnastics class, ballet, soccer, etc.
- What types of social groups are they engaging in? Think playgroups, preschool class, playing with friends at the park, etc.
Let’s reiterate: finding the right screen time limits for your child is about balance. There will be days when your child has had a lot of social or outside time, and they may need to decompress with a 20-minute show while you cook dinner. This is okay. Everything with children is about balance.
Finding Cognitive Balance for Your Child
Balance, balance, balance. Have we said it enough? When we consider screen time for children, we want to look at the whole picture. How is screen time balanced against social time, extracurricular activities, and quality time with a parent or primary caregiver? Is your child performing imaginative play daily? Are you reading to your child every day? If the answer to these questions is “yes!” but your child also engages in moderate screen time each week, you are doing good!
Kyra Minichan believes that you are losing power as a parent by allowing your child to over-engage with a screen. But where do you begin in rectifying your current situation? At The Cognitive Emporium, Minichan peels back the layers of your child to determine the “why” behind your child’s struggles and then provides you with the “how” based on their individual learning profile. If your child struggles at home or in the classroom, schedule a free 10-minute evaluation with Minichan today.