Screen Time : How Much is Too Much for Kids?

The debate goes over and back on screen time – how much is too much for kids? What are your views? Do you believe screen time for kids should be limited ? Or are you of the mind that technology is the future, and our kids need to embrace it? We explore some views on this subject, and tips for managing screen time.

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When we were young, our parent’s main concern was ensuring that we didn’t watch too much television. For my parents, this never posed much of a problem, as children’s programme choice was limited to a few programmes in the afternoon, on our 2 channels!

Now, however, parents not only have to contend with television and the many dedicated 24 hour children’s channels, but a multitude of technological devices including smartphones, ipods, tablets, laptops, PCs and e-readers.

How To Know If Your Child Is Read for a smartphone header

So where do you draw the line, or do you even draw the line?

Steve Jobs was a Low-Tech parent

In this article by Nick Bilton, New York Times, we see how Technology Chief Executives strictly limit their children’s screen time.

“When Steve Jobs was running Apple, he was known to call journalists to either pat them on the back for a recent article or, more often than not, explain how they got it wrong. I was on the receiving end of a few of those calls. But nothing shocked me more than something Mr. Jobs said to me in late 2010 after he had finished chewing me out for something I had written about an iPad shortcoming.

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close”

Read the whole article at New York Times

Balancing Screen Time vs Family Time

I think most of us agree that some screen time is okay for kids, and interactive online educational games can provide benefits, but how best can we balance screen time with family time, outdoor play, indoor imaginary play, reading, and just hanging out!

Dr. John Sharry of Solution Talk addressed this in a Q&A in The Irish Times.

” Families are bombarded by technology and it can easily become an intrusion and interfere with family relationships. The problem is not just for children and teenagers but also for parents who may have their own technology addiction and be constantly checking emails at home or surfing the internet or watching TV. Everyone is talking to someone else and no one is talking to anyone at home.

Be in charge of technology at home

While of course there are some benefits to all these new technologies, in terms of leisure (everyone needs some escapism), learning and communication with the outside world, there are of course many disadvantages in terms of distracting from many other active and healthy pursuits as well as interfering with family relationships and stopping people being fully present at home. You can take steps as a parent to address this.

Toddler Tantrum

The key is to make sure you are in charge of technology, rather than technology being in charge of you. Rather than letting technology creep in and take over family life, you need to take a proactive stance and decide what role technology should have and to set rules around this.

Set family rules around screen time

Simple family rules around technology and screen time can make a big difference. For example, have no technology on in the morning or leave phones at the end of the table during mealtimes or switch off all screens after a certain time in the evening, or have a technology-free evening at least once a week etc.

Teen on phone

It can also help to plan in advance when and where technology might be used; for example, you might agree with your teenagers that it is only used after homework and for a limited amount of time. You could also plan with them a few key programmes they want to watch on TV and stick to this so as to avoid aimless surfing or letting technology fill in all the gaps.”

Read the whole article here on Solution Talk

We also have some useful tips in this 7 Tips for Parents on Managing Screen time, such as using a timer, letting your kids earn screen time, and more.

Is Too Much Screen Time Harmful?

So is excessive screen time actually harmful to your health?

In this article from Psychology Today, Rebecca Noble discusses the health impacts of excessive screen time, which can result in chronic conditions such as increased body fat, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and inadequate cardio respiratory fitness.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children have no more than two hours of non-school-related screen time per weekday. However recent research on children and television reveals that children are watching more television than ever. In November 2013, Nickelodeon reported that children born after 2005 (aged 8 and under) were watching an average of 35 hours of television per week. It’s like a full-time job!”

child watching tv

Apart from physical chronic health issues, excessive screen time has also been linked to irregular sleep pattern, sensory overload, behavioural issues, and impaired academic performance, to name but a few.

Have Your Say

We’d love to know your thoughts. Tell us about your family screen time in our quick vote below:

Do you differentiate between television and other devices? Have you found any positive or negative effects from your kids spending time on screens? Let us know in the comments below

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Jennifer, our Editor, has 1 son and admits to munching a Cadbury’s Turkish Delight now and again.