Does it Really Matter how Many Hours a Day your Child Looks at a Screen?

I remember while I was growing up that we were routinely told that watching too much TV would ‘give us square eyes.’

Even when the only screen we had was a TV (and only one in the house!) our parents knew even way back then that it wasn’t a great idea for us to be sitting in front of it all the time.

And honestly, I only recall watching TV for a short period after school each day, maybe some cartoons on a Saturday morning. We played in the backyard, at the neighbours. I have very fond memories of watching my dad use his carpentry skills in the garage (he was a builder) or watching him fix his track and road bikes. Many conversations took place in the garage!

If I was bored, there was something to help mum with, toys to play with, musical instruments to practice and gymnastics training.

Kids find themselves at a loose end today and the first thing they do is gravitate towards a screen – be it the TV or another device. In today’s busy and stressful world, it is really easy as a parent to just be thankful for a bit of peace and some time to either relax or catchup on neglected tasks such as cleaning or work.

But while our children are whiling away their time in a sedentary position with their eyes glued to a screen, quietly, in the background, more issues are being created.

Emotional and Mental Effects of Too Much Screen Time

  • Affects the development of the brains frontal cortex
  • Social Interactions – such as learning eye contact and taking part in conversations
  • Children can become irritated when they are distracted from using their device
  • Their circle of friends may begin to decrease as they choose the device over participating in activities with friends
  • Lowers their attention capacity, their ability to focus and even build their vocabulary
  • Distracts them study time
  • Affects family interactions and relationships and weakens emotional bonds
  • It greatly increases the chance of them being exposed to inappropriate content, communicating online with strangers and seeking validation by constantly checking the number of ‘likes’ their post has received.
  • They stand more chance of affecting their digital footprint

Physical Effects of Too Much Screen Time

  • Sore and dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Sore necks and shoulders from bad posture
  • Poor muscles in hands and fingers creating issues with fine motor skills
  • Sore wrists from keyboards, gaming, tapping and swiping

Australian Guidelines for Screen Time

  • Children aged 5-18 years should have no more than an accumulated time of 2 hours of entertainment per day (excludes educational uses)
  • Children under 2 should not spend any time watching TV or any other screens
  • Children aged 2-5 should have no more than 1 hours screen time per day

What can you do to Manage Screen Time?

  • Find the right balance for your child and family
  • Create family rules for device use
  • No devices during mealtimes
  • Set an example
  • Encourage breaks
  • Identify other activities that don’t include screens

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