12 Jun The effects of screen time
Screens are everywhere these days, and as a result, managing a child’s screen time has become even harder for parents. Screen time could be any time spent watching TV, DVDs, using computers, playing video or hand-held computer games or using tablets or smartphones.
What are the effects of screen time?
As children today grow up immersed in digital media, it has both positive and negative effects on healthy development. Screen time is a great tool to help children create, connect and learn new things. We, however, feel parents should be actively involved to help their child understand and make good decisions (e.g. games to play and programs to watch) about the use of digital media.
Screen time can also have many negative consequences. Physically, children may complain of sore, irritated and dry eyes, headaches, neck pain, fatigue and being inactive can lead to a less active lifestyle which may increase the risk of being overweight or obese and associated co-morbidities (e.g. diabetes).
Too much screen time can also impact development, e.g. language and social skills. For older children this means it can affect conversations, eye contact, attention and concentration, interpreting body language, making friends and even having interests outside of screen-based activities while ensuring screen time doesn’t impact sleeping, playing, conversation and physical activities.
To combat the physical problems identified above, we suggest you make you give your child a set amount of time on the screen at any one time – for example, 20min. Encourage your child to regularly look away from the screen into the distance, use a tablet stand, take regular breaks and encourage them to move around.
Also, encourage physical activity to be part of your child’s daily life. Such as, parking further away and walking to/from school a few days a week, exploring a new playground every weekend or enrolling your child into their favourite sport or community activity or make plans for an active family activity on the weekends like a bike ride, bush walk or trip to the beach.
To reduce development concerns, balance time spent using screens with other activities, create screen-free zones and times (for the entire family!) and play music instead of turning on the television in the background.
We need to remember that it’s not so much about the idea that screens are BAD rather; social, cognitive and physical activity is GOOD for children.
At Western Paediatric Physiotherapy in Hoppers Crossing, we aim to help children develop the strength and skills for children to be actively involved in physical activities and participate in activities of daily living to the best of their ability – whether or not there’s a screen involved.