There are a number of ways that screen time can affect children’s health and development.
Screen time and sleep
Even a very small amount of sleep deprivation can affect children’s physical and mental health, as well as impacting on family relationships and educational attainment.
To help your child to be their healthiest and happiest self, it’s important that screen use doesn’t interfere with their bedtime routine. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health advises that children should avoid screens in the hour before bedtime. This will help them feel relaxed, calm and ready for sleep. Instead, use this time to enjoy a story together, or talk about their day.
Screen time and communication
For younger children, face to face interactions are vital for developing their speech, language and communication skills. Children need to hear language, and experience the ‘back and forth’ turn taking of conversation. Screen time is not an effective substitute for this.
Use mealtimes as an opportunity for ‘screen free’ time, when you can enjoy talking together.
Screen time and physical activity
When children spend long periods of time on screens, whether that’s the TV, tablets or phones, they are largely sitting or sedentary. The Department of Health advises that children should limit the amount of time they spend sitting in the same position. Of course, it’s also easier to snack mindlessly in front of a screen.
For your child to have a healthy body and healthy mind, they need to be engaging in physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day. This could be running around the playground, cycling, dancing or organised activities such as football, tennis, gymnastics, martial arts etc.
Final note ….
While there is no guidance putting set limits on screen-time, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends that you agree an appropriate amount of screen time as a family based on the child’s needs; ensuring it doesn’t get in the way of sleep, mealtimes, socialising and physical activity.
- RCPCH report- The health impacts of screen time