Why you need to limit kids’ screen time

Children today are digital natives. They were born into a world free of card catalogues and hard copies of encyclopedia editions. We gain information through an immediate Google search, and text messages are more common than phone calls.

Because of this, it’s important to stop and ask ourselves as parents if it comes at a cost.

Sure, technology has tremendously benefited society. But it wouldn’t be wise to think it’s that simple. Tablets, iPhones, Wiis, smart TVs and more preoccupy our little ones’ attentions on a daily basis, sometimes for multiple hours per day.

Sure, some of the apps, games and programs are educational. They teach fundamental math skills, promote literacy, share scientific facts, and may even encourage physical activity.

But could all this screen time negatively affect our children in any way? Are their brains wired differently from ours due to their constant exposure to technology as such a young and critical age?

Let’s look at 5 reasons why you should limit your children’s screen time — and explore what you might do instead.

1. Socialization Will Always Be Important

No matter what your children will grow up and do with their lives, learning to effectively socialize with others is a skill you want them to learn. Non-verbal communication skills can’t be learned from watching a video. The value of this type of interaction cannot be underestimated.

Plus, it’s important to consider what screen time replaces. If it’s replacing family time, outdoor play, physical play or any other highly positive activity, you should reconsider.

2. There’s a Relationship Between Too Much Screen Time and Declining Grades

There is convincing evidence that shows a relationship between too much screen time and declining grades in school. The important takeaway is this decline begins with only 30 minutes of screen time per day.

Statistics like this shouldn’t be ignored, so it’s wise to seek replacements for your children’s afterschool and weekend screen time. Consider the following activities that could replace the steady glow of the screen of a digital device:

  • A trip to the library
  • Good old-fashioned reading
  • Making and reviewing flash cards
  • Creative writing or parent-created writing prompts
  • Board games or outdoor games
  • Indoor or outdoor scavenger hunts

3. Digital Device Use Leads to Eye Strain

Adults and children alike can experience eye strain from using digital devices, which can lead to headaches or worse. The coined term for digital eye strain is “computer vision syndrome,” and it can be especially detrimental for young children.

The following side effects can present themselves after prolonged exposure to screens:

  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Eye alignment issues
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Shoulder and/or neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Macular degeneration

4. Screen Time Before Bed Interrupts Sleep Patterns

No parent needs to be convinced of the importance of sleep for children. Consider implementing a no-screen rule thirty to sixty minutes before bedtime. This will allow children to have adequate time to decompress and prepare themselves for a good night’s rest. Furthermore, consider a creating “charging stations” in the home, outside of the bedroom, where digital devices must stay when not in use. This will eliminate the temptation to use the device at night, when children should be sleeping.

5. Kids Under 2 Are Especially Vulnerable

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends discouraging screen time for children under age 2 because there are known negative effects, but no known positive effects. There’s a relationship between expressive language delay and children under 2 who were exposed to television and video games. 

Regardless of your individual parenting style, monitor screen time to ensure your child won’t experience the negative effects of prolonged use. You also might choose to explain why you’re doing so.

Instead of completely shielding children from technology, it’s wise to find healthy ways to expose them to it as they grow. Implementing rules with meaningful explanations will give your children what they need to grow into responsible adults.

Kate Wilson is a green living blogger (and Pittsburgh native) who loves helping others live happier and healthier lives.  For more from Kate, follow her on Twitter @kateowilson.