Screen Time: A Child’s Teacher or Nemesis?

Is screen time, which is the time spent in front of a digital screen such as TV, video game players, handheld digital devices and computers, a babysitter for your children or the occasional entertainment or educational tool? Answer this question honestly because if your answer is the former, babysitter, your children are at risk of becoming obese, experiencing sleep issues, and of developing depression, anxiety, and attention problems.

Video Game Screen Time

According to The Center for Parenting Education, “about 23% of kids and teens have reported that they actually feel as if they have addictions to video games. That breaks down to 31% of males and 13% of females.” What’s alarming is that these statistics only include one type of screen time, video games. Imagine how high the statistic would be if it included all digital screen times!

Now no one is saying the expectation should be zero screen time for children. Screen time is required for school assignments, can be educational, and is often the source of a memory-filled family movie night. The issue is not screen time itself. Instead, the issue is the amount of screen time allowed and whether that screen time is supervised.

Internet Screen Time

As the Child Development Institute states, when it comes to the internet, parents should be aware of the following five dangers:

  1. False identities are easy to create
    ○ Your children can talk to anyone online with a simple click of the mouse, and that person may not be who they say they are and/or may engage your child in an unhealthy conversation.
  2. Internet predators
    ○ There are people who intentionally target unsuspecting children and youth for negative and impure reasons.
  3. So many websites to choose from
    ○ Your children can gain access to adult websites and adult content easily and readily.
  4. Not all information is private
  5. They are in control
    ○ You must monitor your children and youth because, at the end of the day, they control what online rules they follow or bypass.

Along with the above dangers, the Child Development Institute lists signs that your child might be in trouble and need your quick intervention:

  1. They get on the computer at the same time every day
    ○ This could be a sign of a predator interacting with your child.
  2. They are secretive when they use the computer
    ○ This could be a sign your child is doing something you wouldn’t approve of online.
  3. They are very happy when getting off the computer
    ○ This can, sometimes, be a sign of a new relationship, which could be with someone who is not who they say they are or someone who would not gain your approval.
  4. They are very depressed
    ○ Harassment and bullying are alive and well on the internet, especially among youth.

TV Screen Time says, “Kids who watch a lot of TV have trouble paying attention to teachers because they are accustomed to the fast-paced visual stimulation on TV. Kids who watch TV more than they talk to their family have a difficult time adjusting from being visual learners to aural learners (learning by listening). They also have shorter attention spans.”

There are so many wonderful things about TV. It can make learning fun. It can create a night of laughter for the family. It can open a child’s world to different cultures, food, and ways of thinking that will lead to a more well-rounded perspective. The problems with TV surface when it dominates a child’s life.

We live in an age where children learn how to turn on and start a DVD player long before they learn how to ride a bike or even write their names. If TV dominates a child’s life then something else in the child’s life typically suffers, which could be anything from fewer memories with a sibling to less evolution of their sense of creativity and critical thinking to setting them up to experience great difficulty when asked to sit from 8 AM to 3 PM in a traditional school setting.

The Good News

The Good news is that you, as the parent or guardian, are in control. You pay the utility and cell phone bills. You set the rules as to how long your child sits in front of a digital screen. You are the one allowing or forbidding cell phones at the dining table and family functions. You are in a position to better ensure your child’s screen time is positive and a part of their world, not their entire world.

As long as screen time is supervised and appropriately limited, screen time can be an amazing part of your child’s development. Take the time to notice what screen time adds to your child’s world and what screen time is taking away from your child’s world, such as time playing outside or time reading a book or time helping someone with the dishes. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to making a good decision when it comes to managing your child’s screen time.

Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach