There are countless devices or toys with screens for children of all ages. To be fair, there is great educational software for learning just about anything, readers for books and even games to make learning more fun. But the end result is that children grow up spending a lot of time in front of a screen – not including school work and study, kids age eight to 18 spend an average of seven-and-a-half hours each day on entertainment media. This has likely gone up for children and parents since the pandemic.
Parents are also guilty of this behavior, tuning out and staring at their phone at the playground while the kids play, pulling out the laptop to answer emails after dinner, or binge-watching shows after the kids’ bedtime. This likely is on top of a job that involves constant use of a computer or device of some kind.
There are some great things about screens too — family movie night can be a chance for everyone to spend time together, and video conferencing with friends and family has been a blessing for many who feel isolated during COVID. But a parent who constantly checks their device or computer often leave the child feeling less important than whatever is on the screen.
Health issues impacting kids
Child development experts cite these negative effects, but these are often also applicable to adults as well:
- Sleep deprivation: Video games are designed so users to lose track of time, but devices and social media can also lead to hours of uninterrupted use. This can mean its suddenly well past their expected bedtime, or homework was ignored. The screens themselves can overly stimulate and interfere with the brain’s sleep cycle, leading to insomnia.
- Education: Elementary-level kids with screens in their room do worse on academic testing.
- Obesity: All that time sitting in front of a screen means sitting for hours.
- Behavioral issues: Constantly using a screen can lead to emotional problems, social anxiety or difficulty paying attention.
Changing the behavior
It is commonplace for couples in restaurants to pull out their phones rather than talk to each other. This carries over to family dinners or family time where everyone reaches for their phone when it beeps. To combat this, experts recommend different strategies for limiting screen time. Another option is a digital detox where the whole family goes screen free, perhaps playing games or doing puzzles. Parents can also set an example by limiting their screen time so they can focus on the children or each other.