Welcome to The Art of Patients, I’m Dr Golly and today we’re talking screen time and whether you should limit the amount of exposure your children are getting.
Screen time is defined as the time a child spends watching TV or movies, using computers, smartphones or tablets, or playing video games. As evidenced by this very series, some screen time can be educational, interactive, social or recreational. Let’s jump to the whiteboard and take a look at how prevalent screens are in our society at the moment… (turns with marker).
Recent Australian polls suggest that up to half of all children regularly use screens before bedtime and more than 2/3 of all primary school children own their own smartphone. Teenagers using screens before bed are more likely to experience online bullying as well as sleep difficulties. Long periods of screen time are associated with less outdoor, active and imaginative play, a greater risk of being overweight, unhealthy eating habits, poorer social skills, slower development of language skills and short-term memory, as well as fewer opportunities for decision making, self-awareness and self-regulation. There are also very real safety concerns regarding dangerous materials or people on the internet.
We also know that screen time habits in childhood almost always persist into adolescence and adulthood. There is no doubt that physical, interactive play is critical for a child’s development, but screens are an increasingly prominent part of many cultures and societies, so many families are looking for ways to make their child’s screen time healthy, limited and beneficial whenever possible.
One recommendation that almost all experts agree on, is not using screen time for children under the age of 18 months. This is a crucial period of development, where we want to maximize their physical activity, social interaction and language use. Screens limit these significantly, as well as affecting the development of a full range of eye movement and negatively affecting their ability to stay focused for extended periods of time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released brand new guidelines for screen time in children and adolescents. So in addition to no screen time under the age of 18 months, we also recommend (turns to whiteboard)…
High quality, educational videos or smartphone applications, and always with an adult’s involvement, to help them understand what they’re seeing, and expand their learning. Between the ages of 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to less than 1 hour per day, and ideally involving an adult. Children over 6 years of age should have consistent limits on their screen time use, unless directly involved in their schooling. It’s wise to create media-free areas in the house and times when all family members unplug and enjoy quality family time, especially during meals and on weekends.
You can sit down with older children and adolescents and work on their media literacy, which means having a conversation about understanding and making judgements about media content, advertising bias – as well as encouraging a questioning attitude and developing positive media role models.
You should also always discourage the sharing of any personal information online or internet purchases and spend some time teaching your children about internet safety.
You’ve been watching another episode of The Art of Patients. I’m Dr Golly, I’ll see you next time.