Screen time for children is one of those really hard-to-avoid parts of life, whether they are simply watching TV or using tablets, PCs, smartphones or even smart TVs for leisure/gaming, at school and even get set homework on the computer. Whenever Will goes quiet we can pretty much guarantee that he has crept off to his bedroom and is glued to one of his latest PS4 games.
So how do you know what is an acceptable amount of time for your children to spend in front of a screen? This is something which I have been keen to monitor from the very start with our Beans and I have attended lots of information sessions to help us and others is getting the right information.
The double-edged sword
On the one hand we want our children to be ‘tech-savvy’ so they keep up with their peers at school and can tackle tasks they are faced with learning in school. To say that I am a blogger and spend a large amount of my time in front of a screen, I tried to avoid my children doing the same. When Lillie was in Reception Class and I had tried to keep her away from technology to the best of my ability, it turned out I was holding her back. When placed in front of the computer at school she didn’t understand how to use a mouse (she had only been allowed to use the iPad at home), she struggled to navigate her way around the computer generally and I felt like I had failed her.
At this point I made the decision to give her greater access to the family computer but for limited periods and with adult supervision. I didn’t want to go too far the other way and give her free reign.
Why should we limit screen time?
The rule in our house is that all screens must be off for one hour before bedtime (though usually this is more). The majority of screens emit ‘blue light‘ which suppresses the brain’s ability to produce melatonin (the chemical which helps you relax ready for sleep). Some tablet PCs have the ability to turn off the blue light function.
Less physical activity
Excuse me for rolling out the old phrases but . . . in my day, children played outside or used their imagination to play with actual toys. If children are glued to a screen their bodies are not getting physical exercise which is important for their development and to stay healthy.
How many of us are familiar with the grunts that are emitted from our children when we attempt to speak to them whilst they are staring at a screen? Need I say more . . .
Find the balance
There is no doubt that technology needs to play it’s part in your child’s life. Take Lillie again, for example, she loves to watch TV shows about animals and nature, her knowledge always astounds me. She knows far more than I do about the animal kingdom and the majority of what she has learned has been from watching nature programs on TV.
We have set rules in our house regarding screen time;
- No screens before school
- All screens off by 6pm on a school night
- No screens between 10am and 4pm at a weekend
All of their tablets have parental controls enabled which limits their screen time to two hours per day on a school day and 4 hours per day on the weekend.
How do you manage your children’s screen time?