These days, it seems like screens are everywhere, from waiting rooms to gas pumps – and sometimes even in bathroom stalls! It can be hard to limit your child’s exposure. Throw in the time spent playing on the computer, those Skype calls with Grandma, and the nights you plop your child in front of the TV when you just need to get dinner on the table (we’ve all done it), and it’s no wonder that you worry about your kid’s screen-time.
All parents seem to be wrestling with the same types of questions when it comes to screens:
How much screen-time is okay for my kids?
What effects do screens have on my child’s brain and body?
Can screens hurt my child’s health or well-being?
What can I do to manage screen-time for my child – and myself?
Like most things, screens are not inherently good or evil. A lot depends on how they’re used and what content is viewed. Research about screens is still ongoing, and technology’s changing quickly, so it’s going to be a while before there are definitive answers.
In HelloJoey’s “Screens Without Screams” kit, we explore the latest scientific studies about how screens affect a child’s body, brain, and well-being; provide expert recommendations about screen-time; and offer valuable information about how to find quality content and create media boundaries for your entire family.
Average daily screen use
You may be surprised to know just how much time kids and parents spend with screens. It’s a lot! Common Sense Media found that on average:
kids ages two to four used screens for two hours and 39 minutes each day.
kids ages five to eight clock in at two hours and 56 minutes per day.
tweens use screens for entertainment almost six hours per day (not including schoolwork).
parents spend nine hours and 22 minutes per day on screens for both work and personal use.
For all age groups, these averages exceed the recommendations from the American Association of Pediatricians, which are outlined in HelloJoey’s “Screens Without Screams” kit. Clearly, we’re all spending too much time on our phones and computers – and research suggests there may be good reason to worry about your kid’s screen-time.
How screens affect your child
Science has shown that screens can cause physical changes in your child’s brain and body and may cause tantrums like crying, kicking, and screaming. However, not all tantrums are connected to screens, and not all kids who have screens have tantrums. Each child is different and responds to screens according to their own unique chemistry. Some are more sensitive to the effects screens can have, just like some are more likely to throw up on roller coasters, while others really enjoy them.
In addition to affecting your child’s brain and body, screens also impact your kid’s health and well-being in big ways. Research has shown:
Screens can have a really negative impact on sleep.
Screens have been linked to obesity – particularly if they're in a child’s bedroom
Screens correlate to hyperactivity and aggression, with over 400 linking violent media to higher rates of aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and angry feelings.
If you do worry about your kid’s screen-time, there are clearly compelling reasons to start making changes and setting boundaries now.
How to manage your family's screen-time
According to a number of psychologists, there are many steps you can take to help your child develop a healthier relationship with screens. Some of these include:
A screen detox – eliminating all screens for a designated period of time
Practicing co-viewing and active mediation – watching with and engaging your child
Focusing on quality content – using the four pillars of learning
Creating a media plan – designating screen-free times and zones
Enforcing boundaries for the entire family – even Mom and Dad
You can find more in-depth information about how to implement each of these strategies in the “Screens Without Screams” kit. As with everything else, children look at what we do more than what we say. Enforce your family’s screen-time rules consistently, and let your kids know your values when it comes to choosing media, because one day they’re going to have to make those decisions themselves. Most importantly, put down your phone and make that connection with your child instead.
Want to learn more about how to limit your kid's screen-time without screams? Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.