Today’s children have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can't imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.
The advances in technology mean today's parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen time for children. While digital devices can provide endless hours of entertainment and they can offer educational content, unlimited screen time can be harmful.
The Negative Effects of Too Much Screen Time
Whether you keep the TV on all the time or the whole family sits around staring at their smartphones, too much screen time could be harmful. Here's what some of the research says:
- Behavior problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than 2 hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
- Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.
- Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
- Sleep problems: Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
- Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV.
What can parents do?
The fact is that, during this day and age, spending a lot of time online isn't a bad thing. Sure, some moms and dads might want their little ones to head outside, meet other kids and get some exercise, but all in all, using the computer can have a ton of perks. For instance, having information from all around the world available at any time at their fingertips can transform any device into a great learning resource.
Plus, using the Internet can be an interesting and innovative way for kids to connect with friends and family from the comfort of their own homes. Parents just have to make sure they monitor computer use and teach their children best practices when it comes to going online, and they'll be sure to raise safety-conscious, informed individuals who are evolving with the digital times.
Safety is key
Going on the Internet is almost a right of passage, and is an inevitability at this point. As such, arming their sons and daughters with the right information to keep them safe online is in parents' best interests. For instance, The Canadian Red Cross recommended placing computers in public areas of the house, having an open-door policy regarding being honest about Internet activities, and looking into placing parental controls on Internet-enabled devices.