Screen time for kids - how much is too much? 3 easy steps to ensure online safety.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Let’s talk about screen time for kids. Imagine…

It’s a typical morning with kids at home. Your TV is on playing some morning show (just in the background, as you too busy to listen anyway). While preparing breakfast, you gave your two-year-old daughter iPad. She’s watching Peppa Pig. ‘It’s for kids her age and it’s so educational’, you think to yourself. Of course you happy to have a few minutes to prepare some food, without constantly being interrupted.

Your older (4years old) son is playing some video game on the computer. You not really sure what the game is about, but he seems to be doing very well. You are proud that at his age he’s so tech-savvy. Is this what your morning looks like? How much time do your kids really spend on TV, iPads, computers, PlayStation? Is there such a thing as too much screen time for kids? What about the impact of social media on our mental health?

Technology is surrounding us everywhere. All types of screens are at the reach of your (and your kids) hands. Is there such a thing as too much screen time? Or are we all just a bit too dramatic about it?

As stated in According to the market-research group Nielsen, adults spend over 11 hours per day interacting with media. Of that 11 hours, 4 hours and 46 minutes are spent watching TV. Isn’t it natural then, that our kids will follow what we do?

How much screen time for kids is too much?

According to a recent report from the WHO, ‘children between the ages of one and four should spend no more than 60 minutes per day on screens’. For children under 12 months, “screen time is not recommended.” Those are the new WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep for children under 5 years of age.

WHO mentions the screen time in their recommendations, however, the main point is to outline that children should simply sit less and play more. Inadequate sleep, young children being restrained in pushchairs and sitting too much in front of the TV doesn’t give the kids the environment to develop. Improving on those factors, allowing children time to move and play, enhancing their physical activity, reducing sedentary time, improving sleep quality will, in turn, improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life

Screen time for kids - how much is too much? 3 easy steps to ensure online safety.
Photo by Jessica Lewis

There are lots of positives that could come from using technology. Plenty of educational content is available. There are few things to watch out though, especially when it comes to your kids. The negative effects outweigh the positive when they interfere too much with basic needs. Children and teens should have enough time to get a good night sleep, to move their bodies, connect with friends in real life and gain social skills. If screens are disturbing with that, then they most probably overusing it. No previous generation has been exposed to comparable levels of blue light from digital devices from childhood on. That’s why the simple truth is that we don’t yet know the long-term risks.

What can you do to ensure kids safety online?

  1. No screen time for the youngest kids – for kids under 18 months, there is really no need to remain sitting in front of the TV. Those children have a great deal of growing to do. The main focus at this age is to develop big motor skills. Give them plenty of space and motivation to move around. Crawling, standing and walking are difficult things. There is no need for additional entertainment at this age.
  2. Monitor the use – screen time for kids is not always bad. It’s ok to give older children access to technology. In the end, you using it all the time so it would be very hard to stop them from doing the same. What’s important is to monitor what they do, while on the iPad or TV. Have the rule to be in the same room, when they using screens. This way you can see if the content they are watching is age-appropriate. Or watch some movie together (check out what’s new in September and October).
  3. Give a good example – if you glued to your mobile all day long it will be very hard to convince your kid to go outside and play. Children rarely do what we tell them, they rather do what we show them. Be a good example, switch off your phone from time to time and go outside to play with your kids. This will not only be good for them but also it will benefit your health and well-being.

Technology is not inherently bad for us or our children. If used correctly, it can be really beneficial for your child language skills, hand-eye coordination or problem-solving skills. What’s important that we use technology consciously and control it rather than let it control us. Our kids grow up in this wonderful digital world, which offers them opportunities beyond what we could ever imagine. Just remember, the world beyond the screens matters too. It is our responsibility as parents to expose our kids to a healthy dose of both worlds. And if your kids drive you crazy when they are offline, perhaps try Inuit parenting.