The term “screen time” refers to the time we spend using devices or engaging with technology in some way. Depending on the device, your child’s screen time could include anything from watching YouTube videos on their smartphone to playing games on their tablet or doing homework on their computer.
Children today grow up in an environment that is heavily influenced by technology. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our relationship with technology has grown more intense, with adults and children both spending more time in front of screens as a matter of necessity for school, work, and play.
You may be concerned about both limiting your child’s screen time as well as the content to which they are exposed when they are online. How to set boundaries and optimize your child’s screen time?
Before we get to the answer to this question, let’s go over some of the most significant advantages and disadvantages of screen time.
Screen Time Benefits: The Nature of Your Child’s Screen Time Matters
Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, Mitchel Resnick, believes that instead of reducing children’s screen time, parents and teachers should encourage them to use their imagination and creativity while online.
Namely, research indicates that the nature of screen time, rather than the amount of time spent in front of a screen, is essential.
Technology Encourages Creativity
Several studies have found that electronic media can help children develop creative thinking skills and stimulate their imagination.
Creativity can be defined as producing unique solutions by generating new ideas or new associations between already existing concepts. It also involves the ability to create something new and innovative.
Your child can benefit from screen time by using age-appropriate apps to create, design, or invent. Educational games can teach children how to think outside the box, make connections, and test solutions.
Screen Time Can Spark Interest in Science and Technology
Science, technology, and engineering are all inseparable aspects of modern life. Children today are growing up in a world dominated by technological progress. They are naturally curious and open to the possibilities made available by technology. According to experts, more than half of the first-grade students will be doing jobs their parents haven’t even heard of.
As a result, the value of STEM education in today’s society cannot be overstated. Educational games and apps can spark your child’s interest in STEM fields, encouraging them to acquire new skills and expand their knowledge base.
Children can use online STEM resources to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines while having fun and following their interests.
Technology Can Make the Learning Process More Flexible
It is easier for kids to learn at their own pace with distance learning programs and platforms than with traditional classroom-based education.
Online learning can be tailored to the child’s unique abilities and needs, allowing them to get the most out of the learning resources.
Screen time can also teach children to collaborate with others, enhance their communication skills, and boost their self-esteem.
Rather than being concerned about the device use limit, you should consider whether your child is developing their skills and is learning new things.
Your child’s online activities require adult supervision. Keep in mind that your child relies on you to set boundaries and help them get the most out of technology.
Disadvantages of Screen Time
Many parents are concerned that screen time diverts children and teenagers’ focus away from other things they should be doing, such as real-life social interaction, school, and sports.
Mental Health Issues
According to research, digital media can impact a child’s mental health, causing feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and frequent mood swings.
Increased screen time promotes sedentary behavior, which increases the risk of obesity and other health problems.
Self Esteem Issues
Excessive social media use can harm self-esteem and body image. For example, a negative self-image and insecurity can result from looking for approval on social media, making a child feel isolated and lonely.
How to Improve Your Child’s Screen Time Experience
Even before the pandemic, children, and teenagers younger than 18 were the most connected generations, according to a report by UNICEF. As a result, parents worldwide who were already concerned about the amount of time their children spend playing online games or using social media are becoming even more worried about how to manage their children’s screen time.
Here are some suggestions to follow in order to manage your child’s technology use.
Establish Screen Time Rules for the Whole Family
Set limits on how much time your children can spend using technology outside of school hours and what types of technology they can use.
Limiting their screen time, on the other hand, makes little sense if they see you spending all of your free time on devices—set limits on your own device use and model desirable behavior for your children.
Spend Time without Technology
Establish tech-free times in your home during the day. Encourage all family members to turn off their phones, laptops, and other devices to enjoy alone-time or each other’s company. Putting devices away, like our friends at Sesame Street show, during meals is a simple way to foster conversation and communication at the table.
Promote Physical Activity
Make exercise a regular part of your family’s routine to help your child take a break from screens. Every day, your child needs to be active to maintain a healthy lifestyle, improve their focus and sleep, boost their mood, lower anxiety, and improve overall well-being.
Screen time does not always have to be harmful to your child’s well-being and development. Setting clear rules for screen time when your children are young and modeling good habits as a parent can help children get the most out of their technology use.