Screen Time Is Fast Becoming Scream Time
By now, the growing science on the impact of excessive screen time on the physical and psychological health of our youth is far too extensive to be ignored by parents. Just in case science does not convince, skeptical parents may want to heed the advice of the people behind the screens.
For example, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla wrote this to their newborn daughter:
“Childhood is magical. You only get to be a child once. You will be busy when you’re older, so take time to smell all the flowers and put all the leaves you want in your bucket now. Read your favorite Dr. Seuss books so many times you start inventing your own stories. Run as many laps around our living room and yard as you want. Take a lot of naps. [We] hope even in your dreams you can feel how much we love you.”
Apple founder Steve Jobs, when asked by a New York Times reporter if his kids loved the iPad, said, “They haven’t used it…we limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
Then there’s Microsoft founder Bill Gates who didn’t allow his kids to have cellphones until they were fourteen, set time limits on their screens, and banned phones at the dinner table.
Plus, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told The Guardian in 2019 that she will often “take away” her children’s phones, especially when they’re on vacation. “I want people to interact with each other,” she explained.
Screen Time And The Brain
If even the titans of Silicon Valley limit their children’s screen time, there must be something about the science.
“The growing human brain is constantly building neural connections while pruning away less-used ones, and digital media use plays an active role in that process,” says Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Much of what happens on screens provides impoverished stimulation of the developing brain compared to reality.”
He adds, “Children need a diverse menu of online and offline experiences, including the chance to let their minds wander. Boredom is the space in which creativity and imagination happen.”
Balance, Content, And Limits
Too much screen time means little time for other important activities such as physical activity, sleeping, and creative play. To allow your children the brain stimulation they need offline, consider setting limits on their screen time.
Active Parenting takes information from the American Academy of Pediatrics to identify approximate screen time recommendations for young children:
· Under 18 months: No screen time other than video chatting.
· 18-24 months: Avoid letting children use screens on their own. Choose high-quality programming and apps. Always watch or play with your children while they use an electronic device.
· 2 years or older: One hour of high-quality programming per day.
Active parents also teach their children how to make good decisions when it comes to media and the internet by using the following tips to minimize exposure to online risks:
– Spend time online with your children.
– Help them find useful websites.
– Pay attention to any games, apps, or other media they download.
– Use filters to block children from accessing sites which may be harmful.
– Develop clear guidelines for using the internet.
You Have Control, Until You Give It Away
Nowadays, far too many parents say they don’t know what to do about the time their child spends online, what they do there, or what they watch, seemingly forgetting they are the ones who provide the access and pay for it.
In contrast, informed and active parents stand firm, set the rules beforehand, and warn their children of the consequences of breaking them.
Olive Crest recommends developing a contract for youth to sign before their parents give them access to smart phones and social media.
Some topics to consider include:
· Youth must ask permission before opening accounts.
· Passwords and security settings are established by parents.
· Social media posts are shared with parents and are never offensive or inappropriate.
· Cyber-bullying is never okay.
You can also discuss the positive and negative consequences of various actions on social media. The more your kids think for themselves, the better choices they’ll make when you’re not around!
Ready to learn more? Sign up for an Active Parenting course through Olive Crest or learn how you can host a course at your site. You can also reach us by phone at (714) 543-5437 ext. 9065.
Parenting Education is a program of Olive Crest. Funded by: OC Health Care Agency (HCA), Mental Health and Recovery Services, Office of Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Services Act/Prop. 63.