There is more and more evidence emerging that you need to limit your child’s screen time to help them grow into more rounded, better behaved people. As a parent of two children and someone who has been a keen follower of technology I always been conscious of the benefits and pitfalls that technology can offer to children.
Before I get started I should say that I am an avid supporter of how technology can assist children in their development both at school and at home. On the other side of that coin I’m always aware of how addictive and damaging too much of the wrong technology can be. I have witnessed children develop behavioural and physical problems due technology being used as a babysitter or because parents simply didn’t understand the effect it was having on their children.
Social skills can be damaged
There are some parents who believe that allowing their child to talk for hours to groups of friends via Xbox Live or on messaging services such as WhatsApp is making them more sociable. Now I’m not a parent who thinks that’s totally untrue, after all, there’s no different to letting someone talk on the telephone or write a note. But what seems to become and increasingly pattern is the hours and hours spent communicating in this way, sometimes with children in the same room sending else other SMS messages rather than speaking.
Social skills come from more than just talking. People communicated with facial expression thousands of years before they developed language.
Technology can be negatively addictive
There are countless reports, tests, papers and stories that support the belief that technology is addictive. I’ve seen this in my own children. Take away the tablet computer and the response has sometimes be unreasonable – feet stamping, shouting, etc. They turn into what is commonly being referred to as a Gadget Gremlin.
In September 2014, in the first reported case of internet addiction disorder involving the problematic use of Google Glass, it was reported that a 31-year-old worked in the US Navy, who had been checked in to the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program (SARP) had began to display negative behaviour when he wasn’t using Glass. He had used the device for up to 18 hours a day in his job and when he wasn’t able to use it he became aggressive in behaviour and irritable. The man would regularly and involuntary tap his temple. When questioned more deeply about why he was tapping his head he said it was to switch on the heads-up display on his Glass.
It should be noted that the gentleman in question also suffered from other psychological problems including substance induced hypomania overlaying a depressive disorder. However, there was no doubt to doctors that the man was suffering from withdrawal from the device. The same happens to children, turning them into a Gadget Gremlin.
In January 2015 Google announced that is was suspending Glass, not due to issues surrounding the mental health of wearers but for marketing reasons; perhaps too much of a coincidence for some people.
Education can suffer
There is and increasing trend for schools to provide children with tablet computers to use during their lesson and whilst some applications can assist children with learning some mathematical, language and motor skills, most games are really aimed at getting them to click on adverts or buy addons such as extra lives or credits.
Limit your child’s screen time to improve Behaviour
When out son got his first tablet computer as a present from his Grandparents, we noticed almost immediately that his mood would become negative when the device was taken away from him, especially if this occurred unexpectedly. He also seem to exert evidence of a lack of patience.
In a 2011 study, researchers asked 1,000 college students around the world to go 24 hours without using their smartphones, other mobile devices or the Internet. Many reported symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and one anonymous student even said he or she was “itching like a crackhead” from the longing to use a phone. They were addicted to their smartphones. There have also been cases reported of children as young as 3 crying and begging for a device when it’s removed from them.
Imagination can be reduced
It’s shocking but it’s true: research shows that students prefer a jolt of pain to being made to sit and think. Just think about that for a minute…in fact one of the men opted for a painful electric jolt 190 times instead of sitting and thinking. If you don’t limit your child’s screen time now, you risk your child turning into one of those adults.
Bad language can become normal
One of the biggest problems with allowing your children access to websites such as You Tube via an un-monitored tablet computer is that it’s almost impossible to limit their access to inappropriate content. As much as such services claim to offer Safe Searching or online protection, the reality is that such websites struggle to filter content away from impressionable young people.
Basically, you can’t rely on websites to filter explicate language way from your children – it’s your responsibility. The problem is that if you fail to do this it’s likely that your child will quickly start to think that such language is normal or acceptable. If you notice your kid starting to swear and you haven’t taken steps to limit your child’s screen time then you only have yourself to blame.
A failure to limit your child’s screen time can affect their Posture
Look at the children in the image for this Hub – bent over, doing nothing to help their spine, back and posture. The same can be said for children bended over computer keyboards.
Sitting like this will affect children in years to come. Do you want to be responsible for that?
So how much screen time should my children be allowed to have?
This is an interesting question which has also been studied in some detail. However, after digging around I found the answer generally seems to be 18 hours per week maximum.
What software can I use to limit my child’s screen time?
If you’re using Microsoft products such as a Windows laptop, an Xbox or tablet, you can use the free Microsoft Family to set time restricts for each day of the week.
Users of Android and IOS might like to consider Kidslox, a service which offers free and paid for features including App Lock, Timer and Contact Blocking.
Android users can take advantage of Norton Family which is available from the Play Store in both a free and advanced (paid for) membership.