Do you want to have a quiet dinner? You turn on the Wii. Do you need to work? You put games on the tablet. Do you need to be calm or talk with your partner? You put the TV on.
Surely one of these situations is familiar. The “electronic nanny” is always present. It is cheap and effective;however, we are always assailed by the same doubt.
How much time is too much?
Children spend many hours a day in front of a screen, and although most of the time they are in front of a television, they also use mobile phones, computers or tablets.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children do not spend more than one or two hours a day in front of a screen, and that in the case of childrenless than 2 years should not spend any time in front of a screen. The long-term consequences of using these devices in children are unclear. However, despite the lack of data, there are reasons to be cautious. A child’s brain grows very fast in the first three years of life, increasing the number of synapses in each cell of the brain.
There are several studies that show that there is a clear relationship between the amount of time children spend in front of screens daily and a series of physical, cognitive and educational problems.
These include serious problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or problems in the ability to concentrate attention and school performance. We also know that the excess of time in front of any screen interferes with the development of social skills in children.
Children who watch a lot of television do less exercise and consume more junk food. Therefore, it is not strange that they suffer higher rates of obesity. Therefore, while you cannot prevent a child from watching television, using video games, computers and tablets, it is important to remember that it is necessary to establish limits on the time of use of the screens. And that for a child it is more enriching to interact with other children, be outdoors and participate in more active activities.
Tips to help limit time in front of the screen
Although limiting the time a child spends in front of a screen may seem like an impossible task, or a battle that is very difficult to fight. Here are some tips to help you reduce the time a child spends in front of a screen:
- Be an example. Children tend to imitate their parents’ behaviours. If they see that their parents read books, children will be more likely to read. On the other hand, if they see them spend a lot of time in front of the television, they will also do it.
- Encourage healthy behaviours and limit unhealthy ones.
- Limit the time in front of a screen. It is much easier to limit the time a child spends on digital devices than to prohibit them from seeing it. One efficient way of doing that is using the screen time app such as FamilyTime that has all the features a parent may think of.
- Encourage them to practice other activities. Read, paint, draw, practice some sport,although sometimes it is easier to turn on the television or let them play a videogame, participate in their games.