Technology is a big part of life and almost all homes have screens of some sort. Screen time isn’t just sitting in front of the television; it includes lots of different types of technology from game consoles to mobile phones, tablets and computers.
Although technology makes our lives easier in lots of ways, it’s important to make sure our children do not spend too much time looking at screens. Too much screen time can have a negative impact on both their mental and physical health, and the development of social and communication skills.
So how much screen time is ok?
For children aged 5 and over, one hour per day of screen time is recommended, although less is better.
What’s the problem with too much screen time?
Spending too much time on screens means that children can miss out on opportunities to learn, play and exercise with friends and family. These things are really important to help children grow in to healthy adults.
Too much screen time can also affect sleep. This is because devices give off a blue light which reduces the amount of a hormone made in our body that makes us feel sleepy (melatonin). Screen time before bed time can make children stay awake longer and miss out on the quality sleep which they need to grow and be healthy.
Although lots of interesting and educational materials are available online, it’s important to check that children are not going on sites that are too old for them. There may be content that will upset or frighten a child.
It’s important for you to have parental controls set up on all devices they use, and that you supervise screen time by limiting it to communal areas of the house.
You should also encourage your child to talk either to you or another trusted adult if they see anything online that they don’t like, or which makes them feel scared or sad.
The NSPCC website has lots of helpful tips to support parents and carers in making devices safe and secure.
How can we make sure we aren’t spending too much time on screens?
- Get the whole family involved and make sure parents / carers are good role models with their use of technology
- Create screen-free times, for example – at meal times (link to article about managing screen time)
- Stay off screens at least one hour before bedtime
- Have screen free time as a family – the whole family leave their technology and play a game together
- Use parental controls on devices to set restrictions and set time limits together as a family
- Make a list of activities you want to do with your family to encourage time away from the screens
- Try not to have screens in children’s bedrooms – a device in a bedroom is difficult to monitor
- Set a timer when using screen time so your child knows how much time they have left