Ladies, do you find that the kids are constantly staring at a screen?
When we were young, we were told: “Don’t sit too close to the TV or you’ll ruin your eyes” but now, we stick mini screens in front of our children and then wonder why they all had to wear glasses at such a young age. Whether it’s Omar and Hana on YouTube, or Little Baby Bum on Netflix. Parents are being advised to limit the media consumption of their children. However, studies have shown it is the nature of the content that matters not necessarily the exposure to screen time itself.
So many parents in this digital age are constantly battling with their children over the amount of screen time – and knowing how much has become a moving target. Whether it is three-year-olds throwing temper tantrums when their iPad is taken away, seven-year-olds watching Youtube all night or nine-year-olds demanding their own phone, every stage of childhood accompanied by its own parenting challenges.
There is no actual guidance set by the UK however in America the recommendation is absolutely no screen time under the age of 2 and then a limit of 2 hours a day after this age. This is unclear to me personally. Does this mean it’s better to have three 20-minute sessions with the iPad rather than one hour-long session? Is it really that terrible if my 18-month-old watches a couple of episodes of Paw Patrol before lunch?
Whether parents and children are playing, watching or browsing together it can be confusing to know what the right thing to do is. Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist who specialises in the “digital nutrition” concept, compares media diets to what’s on our plates: think about what you eat instead of counting calories /screen time. Brewer went on to explain that “It’s not just about whether you consume any potential digital junk foods, but also your relationship to technology and the role it plays in your family life,”.
“We know that using screens to soothe or pacify kids sets up some concerning patterns of relying on devices to calm or distract a child (or teen, or adult) from their experience of unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions – so we want to avoid using screens to placate tantrums, just like we want to avoid eating ‘treats’ to calm emotional storms.”
A study of 20,000 parents showed that there was no correlation between regulating device use and a child’s wellbeing. In the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time your child is physically exposed to. Research suggests that how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction. It was explained that concerns over a child’s screen time should only occur if it leads to poor behaviour, family or social life, withdrawal, deception or loss of interest in other activities.
In a nutshell, the professionals believe that screen time itself is not what is harmful, but the content that is consumed is what needs to be monitored. Obsessing over the minutes your child spends looking at a screen doesn’t really have a purpose anymore – it’s all about the balance.
Why not stick on some educational cartoons and make your child the next Einstein?
Let us know in the comments how you manage your child’s screen time and what you do to implement limiting it.