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Screen Time for Kids – The Pressures, Effects, Limits & Top Tips!!!

On this page we look deeper into why it is important to understand the effects of too much screen time for kids, the recommended screen time for children of different ages, as well as providing our useful top 5 tips to help limit kids screen time.

A Christian Perspective on Screen Time for Kids

Whilst computers, phones and screens were not around when the bible was written and therefore some practices today may be different the principles around issues and impacts raised remain the same.

For many of us, the introduction of computers, smart phones and devices have not only changed the way we communicate, learn and access entertainment, but have changed the way we think and the speed of which we live our lives. 

One of the main issues that has arisen from the introduction of computers, smart phones and devices is the time we and our children spend in front of a screen, often causing distractions from more important things and at times causing concern over possible screen addiction.

It is important therefore to ensure that we are following the below principles of self-discipline to lead by example in your families:

  • “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” Proverbs 25:28 – reflecting on times of old where walls around a city protected them from danger so, it is with self-control, protecting our own lives. So live a life of self-control when it comes to screen time.
  • “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” Ephesians 5:15 and “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything” 1 Corinthians 6:12 – Reflect on what level of screen time and time spent on different devices and apps are helpful, healthy and wise.
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 2 – to ensure we are living the best, to God plans and values and not just following what everyone else does.

It is also important to reflect on scriptural principles regarding the protection for your children in the digital world how much time is spent on screens:

    • “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death” Proverbs 19:18 – whist this seems strong, with the use of the word death, it does highlight the importance of disciplining, so whilst we may not be looking at life or death situations with screen time use, enforcing rules and limits will certainly help struggles in different areas, which we will cover later on this page.
    • And whilst the practice of using a rod will have changed, the principles of wisdom and discipline have not “A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” Proverbs 29:15
    • Also, it is important to protect our children from harm and educate them regarding the bad in this world remembering “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8 – so even more reason to monitor screen time and where your children are online.

So now we have highlighted some scripture, and perhaps caused some of us to feel bad (which was not our intention) lets now consider the practical aspect of the screen time battle.

The pressures of limiting kids screen time

A lot of parents are concerned with the amount of time children would spend in front of a screen if allowed to do so, however there are pressures related to limiting kids screen time that many of us want to avoid.

Trying to manage kids screen time, whilst maintaining the balance of busy family life has become one of the main challenges today.  Most of us will battle with what is normally “easier” (and at the time vital for our own sanity and rest) which is often to let children remain in front of a screen, and what is “better” limiting the time in front of a screen for their own health and welfare (although this may never be acknowledged by them).

Limiting kids screen time often results in tantrums (from the younger children) through to arguments (from the teenagers, who seems to be constantly glued to a smartphone or device), any attempt to set and enforce boundaries over the length of screen time can often be exhausting.

It is important to remember however that you are looking out for your child’s best interests, as you do in all things.  So, let’s look at why limiting kids screen time is a good thing to consider.

The Research on the effects of too much screen time for kids

It is extremely easy to dismiss concerns over the effects of too much screen time for kids, as it has become so common and “the norm” in our culture, however it is important see what researchers have reported on this subject as detailed and referenced below:

  • Excessive Screen Time Impacts Length of Sleep – Children are sleeping less than ever before, with screen time being a major factor. In fact, some research conducted on 10-11-year-olds showed that only half of those monitored achieved the recommended 9-11 hours of sleep per night.
  • Excessive Screen Time Impacts the Ability to Sleep – Scientists have highlighted that the blue light emitted by devices are disruptive to the human biological clock and cause the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin to slow down and instead releases cortisol which increases alertness.
  • Excessive Screen Time Impacts Children’s Weight – The world health organisation has raised further concern stating that in 2016 the number of overweight children under the age of five, was estimated to be over 41 million globally.
    In the U.K. alone the government has also reported that nearly a third of children are classified as obese by the time they are 11 years old.The report also suggests that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, with all the accompanying health implications.  As the more they prefer screen time the less likely they are to explore the outside, undertake sporting activities, or become interested in areas of physical exercise.
  • Excessive Screen Time Impacts the Childs Ability to Focus – Research has shown that heavy media multitaskers have more difficulty concentrating and get more easily distracted, opposed to light media multitaskers, whom are more able to focus their attention more easily and switch from one job to another. Children stated in the research that spending a lot of time in front of screens had affected their motivation to complete homework and revise for exams.

All this research reflects the fact that whilst there are a lot of benefits to children engaging in the digital world, if this not controlled there is a major risk for this to have a detrimental impact on the child’s sleep, health, and concentration.

Now we have covered some of the concerns and key effects of too much screen time for kids, let’s look at the recommended amounts of screen time for kids at different ages!

Recommended screen time for kids at different ages

The common reported recommended daily screen time for kids are:

  • Up to 1 Year old – No Screen Time
  • 1 – 2 Years old – Up to 60mins sedentary per day
  • 3 – 5 Years old – No more than 60mins sedentary per day
  • 6+ Years old – No specific limit, but strong advice given as below

The above recommended screen time for kids should be understood and considered in line with the following advice / further guidance.

Further guidance on screen time for 1 - 5 years old

The zero to 1 hour’s guidance on screen time has been published by the World Health Organisation and are recommendations for sedentary screen time, which basically means you are physically inactive while watching occupied by the screen.

However, before you rush ahead and dismiss the recommended times, feeling there may be a loophole, be mindful of the following:

    • Unstructured playtime is far more valuable for a young child’s brain development than engagement with digital media and TV. Children under 2 years old are more likely to learn and remember information from a physical person than from those digitally presented (ie TV, Video, media)
    • From the age of 2 years old, there is defiantly a benefit from some types of screen time especially in the area of education, movement/exercise, music and stories. However, this time needs to be supported by someone to help the child understand what they are watching and helping them apply it.

Further guidance on screen time for children over 6 years old

There are no current recommendations for the amount of screen time for 6 years olds and over, however after immense research the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) have helpfully given some strong advice to help make the best decisions for children.

  • Place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviours essential to health.
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

If you look at the recommended amounts of screen time for kids and are concerned as your children exceed these, don’t worry, you are not alone in the boat.

We have come up with our top 5 tips to help limit kids screen time.

Top 5 Tips to help limit Kids Screen Time.

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1) Model healthy media use

It is vital to model a heathy use of screens yourself otherwise children will not listen to your or abide by the guidelines and rules laid down.  Setting a good example will help the children see that this is normal and possible.

Try to have set times for checking your email and social media and limit this time yourself instead of just scrolling through a phone or device at any time, (a great time would be when the children are asleep or also engaged on a screen).  Also avoid keeping the TV on for background noise.

2) Educate yourself on technology and the latest crazes

It is essential to stay a up to date on the basics of technology, devices and games, because most children are growing up tech savvy and could end up knowing more than some adults do.  It is hard to teach your children the risks of social media or violent video games for instance if you know very little about these yourself.

3) Talk to your children about the dangers of too much screen time

Children who understand that it’s not healthy to watch too much TV, are more likely to stick to the rules than children that think their parents are just being mean when they cap screen time.

In an age-appropriate way, explain to your child how violent video games, movies, and images can be harmful to them. Discuss the potential dangers of online predators and how as a family you can work together to reduce potential risks.

Look at the research on the effects of too much screen time for kids detailed above and discuss these concerns with you child too.

Remember that many children lack the maturity needed to handle online problems, such as cyberbullying. It is therefore important to take responsibility for helping your child stay safe online.

4) Encourage other offline activities

Many children have grown dependent on technology for entertainment. It is therefore important to remind them that there is more to do than just engaging in their online world.  Try to encourage your children to become involved in activities that don’t involve screens.

Remember when suggesting other activities that not all children will like the obvious activities such as outdoor activities, so try and find non-screen activities that they will enjoy.

You may want to engage a child to play a board or card game, to read a book, join a drama club, play outside or get involved in sport.  The important thing to remember here is to engage them in something they will enjoy and that will not involve a screen.

5) Create a family media agreement & relevant contracts

And saving the best till last, why not create a family media agreement?  A family media agreement is simply guidelines around online and screen use that are in line with your own family values, that everyone (including parents) sign up to.  It is best creating these together as a family, so everyone feels like they have been part of the agreement from the start.

It is important to try and make this a fun experience, by getting in a takeaway or having special snacks or treats and sit and discuss some of the issues and research around excessive screen and internet use.

Instead of making a list of dos and don’ts’, try to look at it from a perspective of what is allowed and what is sensible. To keep the conversation inclusive and positive.

Come up with “repercussions” (rather than arbitrary punishments) as a family, for if someone steps outside the boundaries.  Try where possible to link the repercussions to the original wrongs and let the consequence help teach the lesson, for example if time is exceeded on a particular app or tv, then the repercussion may be to reduce the time allocation for the next day or two, equivalent to double the time exceeded.

Here are some questions you may want to consider when writing a family media agreement:

  • How many hours a day are allowed on the computer, smart phone, TV, tablet, or playing video games and will this include or exclude schoolwork?
  • What devices can be used and when? After schoolwork is complete? At mealtimes? Just before Bed? Late at night? In Bedrooms or not?
  • Will there be different rules for when friends come over? Or at weekends? Or for birthdays or during holidays?
  • What films, TV programmes or online videos can be watched? Discuss your family’s thoughts and attitude to adult, violent or sexual content?
  • Is the use of social media sites allowed and if so which ones? And from what age?
  • Are any specific or type of websites off-limits?
  • What information can be shared online and what should not be shared?
  • What should your child do if they encounter something scary online or something that makes them feel uncomfortable?
  • Who pays for any products, services or add-on’s that are purchased online?

We understand that some parents will not have time (and often capacity) to be able to start the process and thoughts needed to write a digital family media agreement or contract.  So, we have done the legwork for you and come up with some pre-written agreements.

All you need to do is fill in the gaps in the agreements or adapt and amend to suit your family’s discussions.

The benefit of starting with these forms is that it provides a framework for you to have further discussions as a family and complete the forms together.

The agreements we have produced are as follows:

  • General Media Agreement
  • Computer, Tablet and TV agreement
  • Video Games Agreement
  • Mobile / Cell Phone Agreement

Click here to find out more and download these agreements

Now we have given our top 5 tips to help limit kids screen time, let us finish with some final important points that it is worth taking note of.

Final important points regarding screen time and your child’s online world

We have detailed the below final points which we have found to be useful ourselves and other important information found from our research, which we also wanted to share with you.  These are as detailed below:

  • Times of Engagement – For many parents, it is just easier to turn on the television than to actively engage with their children. But remember those intimate times of engagement and the details you learn are required for successful parenting. So, remember to observe, listen, ask, and parent.
  • Show Interest – It is vital to understand your child’s online world to be able to spot if something is going wrong, learn what they do by taking a healthy interest in what they are doing and regularly ask your child about their favourite vlogger, game or online activity.
  • Don’t just pull the plug – Social and video media as well as gaming is like a deep-sea diver coming back up for air after a deep dive, if you do it too quickly, it can have a negative effect. Try to give your children reasonable warnings about when to turn off, to help them ease out of their game, private chats or video.
  • Behaviour Awareness – Television can have an immediate impact on your child’s behaviour. After too much television or video games, children tend to get irritable, aggressive, selfish, and impatient. Be mindful of this and on the look-out for these behavioural changes.  This will help you decide and more finely balance the amount of screen time is best for your children.
  • The Teenage Brain – For those with teenagers, be mindful that the adolescence years will bring about much change to the teenage mind. This is a vital stage in their development as it will help your child eventually balance impulse, desire, goals, ethics, self-interest and rules.  The downside is the two parts of the brain that are involved – the amygdala (responsible for emotional responses) and the prefrontal cortex (responsible for planning, reasoning and self-control) do not develop in tandem.  Often resulting in the often-seen misbalance.  Try and find some comfort in the fact that this imbalance is not your fault and often not their fault either and just be ready for over reactions in some areas when dealing with the delicate limiting of screen time!
  • Protect mealtimes where possible – Most of your family’s richest conversations are likely to take place during meals and in the car. Value those times with your kids and do not let the TV, phones or any other screens steal them from you.

So, we have covered the effects of too much screen time for kids, the recommended screen time for kids and given our top 5 tips to help limit Kids Screen Time and some other important points regarding screen time and your child’s online world.

As we stated before if you want to take advantage of our free downloadable family media agreements then click on this link PCH family media agreements.

If you want to find out more about relating to your children and what other risks, they may encounter then we fully recommend this book!

If you want to know more about an amazing parental control software that help you to manage screen time and also track and review what your children do when on screens, then check out our recommended parental control software.

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