What are the effects of too much screen time?
The effects of excessive screen time are not all negative for our children, but it’s worth monitoring your child’s screen time to make sure their relationship with their devices isn’t becoming a problem, especially during their school days. And unlimited screen time will pose a major blocker if you want them to read books at any point. ‘Not too little, not too much, just right’ is a good mantra to follow and you can adjust your restrictions accordingly, depending on your child’s behaviour and how their relationship with their screens develop; versus their need for physical activity to balance life out.
According to a recent study at The Vision Council, if a child is exposed to two or more hours of screen use per day, they report the following symptoms:
- Eye strain
- Neck and shoulder discomfort
- Reduced attention span
- Irritability and disobedience
- Generally poor behaviour.
Combinations of these symptoms can have negative impacts on your child’s academic performance and their ability to interact pleasantly with others. Being able to spot the signs of excessive use will help you to monitor their behaviour and manage them accordingly.
How much is recommended for a child’s screen time?
The effects of screen time will differ depending on your child’s age. You should also consider what they are actually doing on their screens before you implement any restrictions.
There are four broad areas to look at:
- Passive: watching TV/YouTube, reading, listening to music
- Interactive: surfing the internet and playing videogames
- Communicative: engaging social media, video chatting or messaging
- Creative: using digital equipment to be artistic.
It’s always a good idea to establish a certain set of rules with your child, especially before they start expecting a lot of time, heads down in front of their screens. They should be encouraged that mealtimes and before bed should both be screen-free times with a focus on quality time with the family and a bit of chin-wagging thrown in for their social development.
When it comes to younger children, it’s always a good idea to show an interest in their activity on digital media and get involved where you can. If you share experiences with your child in front of their screen, they’ll be more likely to approach you with any problems or concerns they may encounter online later.
It’s no good berating your child for too much time on screens or even taking your child’s device away, only for them to see you slavering over your own phone! If it’s a case of ‘pot calling kettle black’, it might be time to adjust your screen behaviours, too. If a child either sees you on your smartphone, or even if you have it lying around, that can make it more tempting to them to ask for it again.
The best apps to improve kids’ wellbeing
It might not seem like it, but everyone has their struggles, especially with media use these days. This is why being able to reach out to gain much-needed peace of mind is key for us all, children included.
For Me – Putting Childline in your pocket
A free app providing a totally private and totally confidential service for anyone under 19 to talk about their worries any time of the day via any means they choose. They can get advice, play games, ask questions or use message boards and sound off with other young people in a safe space.
Headspace for Kids
An opportunity for children to enjoy fun, engaging activities that teach them the basics of mindfulness and build the mental foundations to be happy and healthy for life. The app includes breathing, visualisation and focus-based meditation exercises that are tailored for different age groups. It is high quality and worth investing some time on; and despite the name, parents can also get involved.
The best apps to control screen time
After you’ve agreed a daily limit on screen time with your child, an app can help you stay on top of it.
Very simple app to install on Android and IOS (limited coverage is the downside) that can help you limit apps and time spent on the internet, as well as tracking search history. It will also log texts and deliver geographical information on your child’s current whereabouts.
An app that allows you to install software on multiple disparate devices that pulls all your child’s digital data on their use of screens into an incredibly user-friendly dashboard. Track your child’s movements and set new internet limits as well as limiting text messages and phone calls.
The best apps to get kids active
Limiting screen time is easier if you have some alternative suggestions to fill time in inspirational ways rather than just handing out household rules. Here’s a couple of suggestions…
Add some recreational screen time to the mix. An app that motivates children to develop a healthy lifestyle, make healthier choices, change bad habits and improve their overall physical and mental health via an engaging set of games, goals and rewards that young people respond to.
The app that “turns screen time into active play time” with game suggestions that your child can indulge in anytime, anywhere. It’s customisable, original, totally interactive and, most important of all – fun.
Over 1 million children already play Zombie Run, an app that improves your child’s fitness levels by gamifying their runs and workouts and encouraging them to solve problems and think laterally and creatively: all the good stuff young kids secretly crave but rarely indulge in.
Managing screen time for babies and toddlers
Scientists believe that during the first two years of a human’s life, we programme our own specific “hardware” for the rest of our journey: the key to cognitive development and building who we are.
Naturally, given where we are in the digital age (and pandemic times), spending some time in front of a screen is inevitable. Experts recommend making screen time as productive as possible and just a part of your child’s daily routine as opposed to the nucleus of it. They also believe that children younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all.
What are the consequences of too much screen time for teenagers?
Teenagers over-using their screens are more susceptible to mental health problems, have a higher risk of obesity, are less inclined to be active physically and socially outside of their online circles and can suffer from sleeping disorders, attention problems and issues at school and beyond. So how do we support them?
While it is impossible for parents to consistently monitor the screen behaviour of their teenager, it’s very important to rationally – and, perhaps, collaboratively – set appropriate limits. Common sense issues like not bringing screens to the dinner table are a challenge for all parents.
Every parent needs a little help
We know this because a lot of us at Virgin Media are parents, too. It’s also why we include the Web Safe tool with our service to help protect your home and broadband network. You can block websites that may contain viruses and protect your loved ones from the internet’s darker corners, including malicious content, pornographic material, crime, drugs, suicide and self-harm.
With internet security in place, you can also limit the times your child can access the internet and the amount of screen time they are exposed to in everyday life.
You can find out more about internet safety, screen-time guidance and gain that extra peace of mind from Internet Matters. As well checking out Internet Matters, you could also take our Children's internet safety test. You'll be quizzed on your online safety know-how and you'll also get tips and insights to share with your kids.