Is One Hour a Day Too Much Screen Time?
Being a parent is a full-time job that warrants no sick days or lunch breaks. When we finally get a break to board a busy plane to Melbourne for the holidays, the last thing we want to deal with is a restless child. So, what’s the easiest fix? Throw on an episode of Peppa Pig or Baby Shark on repeat on the Ipad. We’ve all been there and personally; I see no shame in doing it. However, since our children really are the guinea pig generation in growing up with technology since infancy, it’s important to examine the benefits and repercussions of sitting them in front of a screen. How much is too much screen time? Is there a certain age where screen time is okay?
Firstly, it is important to note the different types of screen time. Not all screen time is bad screen time, especially since we are moving towards a technology-centric society. The four different types of screen time are:
- Interactive- Skype, education or interactive apps such as drawing etc,
- Non interactive- sitting still and watching movies or YouTube videos
- Educational- doing math homework online
- Recreational- playing games or watching videos for fun
At ToBeMe, we strongly believe in limited recreational screen time for children under the age of five. Our unique ToBeMe Curriculum is a hybrid education of Montessori, THRASS and Reggio Emilia. The Montessori method believes that children under the age of five should have zero screen time. This is because anything children see they believe to be real and truthful. We want to teach children that not everything they see is the truth. THRASS stands for Teaching, Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills which are the fundamental elements of a child’s educational development. Spelling and literacy are the cornerstones of education. If your child is unable to spell, they are less likely to succeed in formal learning, especially if they are stuck in front of a screen all day. The Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood Education emphasis that children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others, highlighting a strong sense of social collaboration and implementing the environment as the third teacher with a strong potential to inspire children. Additionally, real-life interactions are much better for children’s well-being, learning and development. At ToBeMe we believe that:
- Children under the age of five should aim to have zero screen time unless it is interactive, educational apps or video chatting with loved ones;
- Adults should watch or use interactive apps or programs with their children to help them understand what they’re observing;
- Children under the age of five should have no more than one hour a day of screen time under adult supervision; and
- Children over the age of five should have consistent rules and limits with regards to the type of media they use and how much time they spend on said media.
Setting rules and regulations on your child’s screen time helps to ensure that your child enjoys healthy developmental activities behind and away from screens. Children learn by interacting with the world around them; by seeing and doing. For example, if I fall off the play structure and scrape my knee, I know to be careful on that play structure. However, if Super Man stands in front of a locomotive and survives, what is that telling our children? More importantly, it is crucial that we as parents ensure that screen time doesn’t get in the way of sleep or other activities that are good for our children’s development. These activities can range from things like physical play, reading, creative play and quality time with family and friends.
Below, the ToBeMe family has highlighted what we believe to be the pros and cons of screen time:
- Children interacting with technology is almost inevitable, so when you get involved when your child is using it, you help your child to make good choices about the games they play or content they consume;
- your child could use good quality content that promotes developmental skills and learning;
- certain games or activities could influence your child with new ideas for traditional play. A great example is Tetris which teaches children about shapes and sizes as well as architecture and mathematics;
- using screens can help your child learn new skills like videography, photography, or video/ photo editing; and
- technology allows for easier access to academics
- Physical problems such as irritated eyes, headaches, fatigue and obesity. If your child is constantly looking down at a tablet or mobile device, it can cause discomfort in the neck or spine. Living a stagnant lifestyle in front of a screen can cause a child to be less active, leading to obesity. There are many ways to help reduce these risks such as limiting the time your child spends in front of a screen, sitting with their neck upright, taking regular breaks to move around and stretch their legs as well as incorporating physical activity in their daily routine.
- Developmental issues such as language and social skills. Children need real life interactions to develop these skills. Too much screen time can affect their ability to hold conversations, pay attention, be socially aware and maintain eye contact. It could also affect your child’s chances with developing a wide range of interests away from the screen as well as the friendships and lessons associated with these interests. You can reduce this risk by balancing your child’s time in front of a screen with other activities that peaks their interests.
- Last, but certainly not least, is safety. Children are very impressionable and the screen-based media that your child is exposed to can negatively influence their behaviour such as the portrayal of stereotypical representations of gender, violent or graphic imagery and/ or coarse language. Additionally, your child can encounter dangerous material or people on the internet. You can reduce this risk by teaching your child about internet safety and certain precautions to take like not sharing any personal details online. You can also limit the sites your child interacts with by adjusting your privacy settings or password protecting your apps store.
Since we are living in the age of technology where a new app or fad develops by the minute, there’s no avoiding it. The more you restrict your child from spending time in front of the screen, the more likely they are to rebel outside of the home. It’s important to teach your child how to use screen time safely, responsibly and enjoyably. Here are a few things we hope you were able to take away from this blog:
- Take initiative and teach your child about media literacy so they can fully comprehend and question media messages.
- Be with young children while they are enjoying screen time and interact with them to teach them appropriate games and screen time activities.
- Before allowing your little one to download a game or watch a television show, it is important to research said media.
- When your child is watching YouTube videos, make sure they are watching from a trustworthy source.
- Ensure that your child has a healthy balance of screen time and non-screen time. Unstructured play time is important for spatial, creative and learning development.
- To ensure your child gets a good night sleep, ensure their bedroom is screen free by lights out.
So, next time you’re on that busy plane to Melbourne download some educational games or television shows that will entertain and stimulate your child while you enjoy a nice glass of Pinot Noir.