Pulling the Plug on Screen Time

Kids today have never known a world without technology in it. They’ve been born into an age of smartphones and flat screen TVs and constant exposure to the internet. The debate over how much time we should allow children to spend with their devices has been raging pretty much since those devices became widely available. Today, most kids have free-ranging access to any kind of technology they might want at a given moment. Research has shown, however, that high quantities of screen time may be doing more harm than good.

In this article, discover how: 

  • Technology has become a makeshift babysitter for a number of children;
  • excessive screen time can negatively impact a child’s health;
  • and we can begin to help children unplug.
A child (2-4 years) holding a cell phone.
Even toddlers are being exposed to screens. Introducing them to technology early on, without necessarily letting them interact with it, might be a better way to make sure they don’t become addicted to screens before even starting Kindergarten. 

Gadgets as a Babysitter

Too often, the technology is used as a tool to keep kids distracted while the adults in their lives use the quiet that follows as an opportunity to finish a chore, or even to spend some time with their own devices. The problem that arises from this is that it drastically reduces a child’s face-to-face interaction, which can be a key component to their socialization. 

Children learn how to interact with the world at large by first interacting with the people they spend the most time with. Surveys have indicated that 38% of children under the age of two have already been exposed to how to use mobile devices. If that face-to-face interaction they need is taken away--and at such a young age--they are at a much greater risk for less developed social skills later in life.

Downfalls of Access to Technology

We don’t typically think of something being “accessible” as being a bad thing, but in the case of the sheer access many children have to excessive screen time, there may be some negative consequences. A report that 1 in 4 children have televisions in their own bedrooms is troubling for this very reason. 

The primary function of the bedroom is for sleep; if the TV is located directly in a child’s room, however, the temptation to stay up watching their favorite movies and TV shows may be so great that they lose out on valuable time for sleep. And because sleep is so important to restoring energy and brain function, this can have adverse effects on other aspects of a child’s life, such as risk for high blood pressure and obesity, depressive and antisocial behaviors, and symptoms of ADHD.

Two kids lounging on a sofa holding game controllers.
Even video games can be a source of too much screen time. Some might mimic a form of online socialization, but simulation can’t stand in for in-person interactions between kids.

Helping Kids Unplug

If we want our kids to grow up to be well-rounded individuals, we have to teach them to step away from their screens first. In order to achieve this, we can do the following:

  • Encourage them to go outside and play! Especially during the summer months, there’s plenty for kids to do to keep themselves entertained--and without a screen. Swimming, for instance, can help them develop an important life skill, and they’ll have fun doing it. If a neighbor doesn’t have a pool, look out for a community one your child can learn to swim in.
  • Limit their screen time--and stick to it. It might seem difficult, especially since there’s a good chance you won’t hear the end of it for a while when you do start cutting back your child’s screen time, but it will ultimately benefit them. Set specific timeframes for when you’ll allow your kid to be on their devices, and don’t let them be on their screens outside of those times.
  • Arrange for a family night. In order to encourage your kids to believe that there is more to life than their screens, you’ll have to show them some other fun things they can do. Set aside one night a week to spend some time with your kids. Let them pick a board game to play or a puzzle you can assemble together.
A child holding a teddy bear and sleeping.
Kids need a good amount of sleep in order to grow and learn. Making sure all their devices are turned off before bed can help us make sure they grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults.

In spite of all of the issues that might arise from children engaging in excessive screen time, there’s still one fairly simple solution to most of them: reduce the amount of time kids are allowed to spend with their devices. This means removing electronics that might distract them while they should be sleeping from their rooms and limiting the amount of time they can spend on their devices. If we do this, they will be less susceptible to mental and physiological health problems, and much more socially adept as they age.

For questions, partnerships, or to get covered on the GRW blog, click here.

New Posts