Screen Time And Childhood Development: What You Need To Know

While lots of research is needed on the good and bad side of screen time, we do know a bit about how it affects childhood development. 

If you had of asked us 20 years ago about the impact technology would have our lives, I don’t think anyone could have foretold today’s reality. It is simply mind-boggling to realise the improvement in technology and how it has shaped our lives so quickly.
Screen time is now a huge part of children’s lives and while it was predominantly TV screens, now kids are viewing content through tablets, laptops and phones.
Modern kids are incredibly savvy to tech devices and most would have regular screen time every day. While lots of research is needed on the good and bad side of screen time, we do know a bit about how it affects childhood development.
Here we give you the information all parents need to know:
Some of it is educational – We can bicker about letting kids use screens, but the fact is, most children are using them, and, in some cases, it isn’t all bad. There are plenty of educational apps and TV programmes perfect for youngsters to teach them new skills and build their social abilities. If given to a child sparingly (and we say, sparingly) they can help develop their communication skills and help their motor skills too.
Balance is key - This doesn’t mean your child should be allowed a screen every hour of the day and like with everything in life, balance is key. There has been some research and studies which showed that continued exposure to electronic media led to delayed cognitive skills in kids. Furthermore, the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend a massive seven hours a day in front of electronic media.
Start kiddies off right – As a parent who didn’t have devices while my kiddies were toddlers, it can be easy to say, I don’t see the point of it. However, we know that more than anything, parents want peace and if their child is quiet while using a screen in a coffee shop it can be harmless. But two-year-olds who can work iPads but can barely talk is worrying and something parents must be aware of. Maybe leave screens until kiddies are older and give them the time to develop and have fun in the traditional way. Leave screens for “must moments” like meeting friends or family.
There is a risk of reliance and addiction – A young child who grows up using screens regularly will develop an unhealthy reliance on them. Perhaps even an addiction. More and more kids are being assessed for technology addiction – something that is a new phenomenon. Focus can become an issue for kids who have too much screen time as well as trouble concentrating and less of an attention span. Young children’s brains develop quickly and the first few years of brain development are pivotal to future brain function and health.
Risk and reality – The risk is, of course, that we may not fully know the impact screens have on our children’s long-term health so again, caution is needed. The problem is screen time is known to release dopamine and this can feel almost addictive, and when a child gets too used to the use of screens, they may struggle to enjoy other activities. The reality is, children need to know how to play, talk, run and do normal activities instead of knowing how to swipe windows of a screen.
The main piece of advice is that no child under two should be given a phone or tablet to give them time to develop. And when you do let children use these devices limit them to an hour a day.
Emma Hayes is a thirty-something mum of two girls aged 16 and 10, planting her right into the teenage and tween-age years! Follow her on Twitter at @EmmaHayes25.

Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes is a busy mum to two girls aged 17 and 11 and is married to her childhood sweetheart.

Read more by Emma
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