Author: Dr Caroline Fitzpatrick
Psycho- educational Researcher
Children born into the new millennium have an unprecedented access to screens in the form of televisions, computers, video games, smart phones, and tablets. This changing childhood landscape has led many parents, educators, and researchers to ask questions about the possible benefits and negative effects of this increased digitization of children’s lives. Although there are different opinions about how children should interact with media, most academics and health professionals agree on the following:
Screen time should be limited
–The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that children under the age of two should not be exposed to screens. This recommendation does not extend Skype and Facetime type applications which have been found to have a positive influence on infant and toddler’s social development.
-Between the ages of two and five, guidelines recommend no more than 1 hour of screen-based activities.
-From age 6 onward it is recommended that children receive 1-2 hours a day excluding time spent on homework or on reading devices such as Kindle.
Why limit screen time?
–Preschoolers who spend too much time interacting with media are more likely to develop poor social skills and are at greater risk of experiencing academic difficulty.
– Because of its sedentary nature, screen time can also have an influence on your child’s health. Studies have found that children and adolescents who spend more time with screens are more likely to become overweight. They are also at risk of developing poor motor skills and lesser athletic ability.
Quality also matters
-High quality educational programs, such as Sesame Street, Blue Clues can help improve school readiness in 4 to 5 year old children.
-Specially designed educational video games can also help adolescents acquire lessons in academic subjects and increase positive social behavior.
– There is overwhelming evidence using samples from the United States, Japan, New Zealand, and Canada, that violent video games, movies, and television shows contribute to increases in aggressive behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes.
How can I shape/monitor my child’s media habits?
-Make sure that children’s rooms are free of televisions, laptops and smartphones.
-Limit media usage to shared family spaces in the home to allow for the monitoring of content and media time.
-Put in place a no media rule one hour before bed and turn off the internet/wifi at night.
-Create media free times, for example during meal times or in the morning while getting ready for school.