Regulating your kid’s screen time can be one of your worst nightmares as a modern parent! Whether it’s your pre-schooler throwing tantrums for watching her favourite cartoons every day, or your toddler’s ease of using a smartphone – it can be a worrisome issue for parents to deal with. Multiple opinions on the internet can make it even more difficult to access helpful information on the issue. We at CITTA are here to help you! We have put together a list of helpful recommendations and guidelines regarding screen time for kids, collated from trustworthy sources so that you can feel a little more prepared to tackle the situation at your home. Keep reading to know more!
How much time should a child spend on screens?
This is the most common question most parents have. Two things to remember at the outset are that recommended screen time varies as per your child’s age and that the quality of the screen time is also just as important as the quantity. The World Health Organization recommends that for children of age 0-2, screen time be entirely avoided. If unavoidable, children aged 2 are recommended to keep their screen time under an hour. If you are a parent to an infant or a 2-year-old, you should consider limiting the use of screens to video calling relatives, such as grandma and grandpa.
For kids aged 2–5, the WHO and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping screen time below 1 hour—the lesser the better. Even then, one needs to mindfully engage in constructive screen time together with their kids, such as watching educational videos and listening to music. 0–5 years is the time period of rapid growth and development in kids. Excessive screen time can hamper their development and lead to issues such as delayed speech and hyperactivity.
As kids grow older, many more criteria come into play considering the ease of access to the internet today, and it becomes much more important to educate kids about safe internet usage.
Is screen time damaging for kids?
Too much screen time for kids can make their lifestyle more sedentary, which is linked to multiple health risks such as childhood obesity and associated diseases. As mentioned previously, excessive screen time can lead to issues such as delayed speech and hyperactivity among kids aged 0-5. Apart from this, spending too much time on electronic devices can cause eye strain, disturbed sleep, headaches, and neck, back, and wrist pain. It also makes children more prone to cyberbullying. Unmonitored use of the internet can also lead to multiple mental health and social issues, such as reduced socialization, social anxiety, and the desire for instant gratification.
How much screen time is too much?
If you notice your kid losing interest in any physical activity and actively seeking screens as a replacement for recreational activities such as playing with friends or studying, it might be a sign that your child’s screen time has increased to an unhealthy level.
What can I do to ensure that my kid’s screen time is constructive and safe?
Creating a screen time plan for your family is of utmost importance today. You should try to understand your children’s points of view and involve them in the decision-making process. For example, you might come up with a rule that no screens are allowed on the dining table and an hour before bedtime. Setting up parental controls on apps such as YouTube and Netflix is also a good idea to ensure that your kids are watching age-appropriate content. Try to take an active interest in the kind of programs, video games, apps, and websites that your kid regularly visits. This will help you to cultivate trust with your kid, so that they can come to you when they are confused or need help navigating the virtual world. Most importantly, educate your child about good internet etiquette, such as refraining from using swear words or saying anything on social media that they might not say in person, and not sharing any personal or intimate information on the internet.
Also, remember that not all screen time is bad. Video calling your kid from work, playing a video game together, family movie nights/cartoon nights – these are a few ways in which you can make screen time work positively for you and your kid! And of course, your kids can learn new things during their screen time, whether that is through an interactive game or book, instructional videos, or music.
How to strike a balance between kids’ screen time and physical activity?
Kids learn a lot by emulating their parents. This is why it becomes important for you to set up a good example for your kids with your own safe and healthy screen habits. If you would like your kids to be more physically active, plan a few playdates with them. If you would like them to eat their meals with the TV and phones switched off, refrain from using phones during family meals. Apart from setting a good example, you can encourage your children to cultivate other hobbies that do not involve screens, such as creating art, writing, reading, or playing sports of any kind. Educate them about the importance of physical activity in building health. Encourage them to use their screen time to build a connection with their friends and community in a positive way.
Screens are here to stay. Even though it may feel overwhelming to pave a way that offers the positives of technology, but doesn’t harm your kid’s health, the above recommendations can be a good start.