We are all talking about it!
What is healthy screen time and what is not?
Is all screen time equal?
The American Academy of Pediatrics once had screen time guidelines that recommended just two hours or less each day. They changed it however, in 2015 and now there is no set limit. They say we need to “help parents understand that children
have to learn self-regulation and ….. support parents in setting limits on overuse of all types — including overuse of
digital media.” (Source)
It would seem a more sensible approach is to encourage children to spend screen time with others and not alone. We should guide children on different times of the day, such as meals and bedtime, being media-free and help them develop balance. Let’s face it, adults too ,need to put away their own screens while spending time with their children.
Researchers tend to categorise screen time into four main types:
- Passive (such as watching a movie) – linked marginally to doing worse in health and school
- Interactive (such as playing a video game)
- Social (such as texting or FaceTiming)
- Educational (such as a virtual class) – linked to doing better in school and had no negative health effects.
Of course more than 8 hours of screen time each day is considered unhealthy.
Screen time guidelines are debated for a good reason. Research has shown that children who spend excessive time on screens are more likely to have eye problems, weight problems and trouble with reading and language. They are more likely to develop physical and mental health issues.
A major issue now facing young people who have spent considerable time on mobile devices its a condition called “Tech Neck.” Research has shown individuals spend around four hours daily staring at their smartphones. That’s 1,400 hours every year and the angle of our head and neck can significantly increase the pressures on our neck and spine. Too often we use mobile devices with poor posture and its effects are tremendous.
Sleep: Screen time can be overstimulating for both children and adults, especially in the evenings. Using electronics too much can make it harder for a child to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get a good quality of sleep. Placing some boundaries around times that technology is used can be important.
Vision: Extended screen time is not healthy your child’s vision. Doctors are seeing more and more dry eye disease caused by extended screen time. When you use a screen, it can affect how often you blink, which can eventually cause dry eyes. It can also cause strain depending on how close the devices are held and the brightness of the screens.
Attention: Most screen time children typically have or want to have, can be fast-paced and very stimulating. This can lead to a a change in default behaviours, including a lack of concentration, or trouble focusing when things are slower paced. These new habits can be taken to the classroom. If children can’t concentrate, they run the risk of falling behind and misunderstanding material. Many educational pursuits take time and effort, such as learning a language or solving a complicated math problem. When children get used to fast-paced games and instant gratification, it can cause them to become frustrated if they have to work hard to achieve things that take more work.
Reading time: Reading time is very important to a child’s education. It’s crucial parents read to their children to develop a love of books that can help with language development. It leaves far less time for that if a child is engaged with a screen all day. It is essential that children are attracted to reading for pleasure and understanding, whether using paper books or e-readers.
Connections: When too much screen time is allowed, it can cause a child to miss out on those important social connections they should be making with other people. Balance is important.
During the pandemic, however, screens were the only safe way for many young people to learn socialise, or connect. In many cases, children were in front of screens far more than they ever would have before. In fact, most age groups saw a 10 to 30 percent increase in daily screen time over the course of 2020. What is important that we use devices purposefully and while considering the whole picture of health factors that may exist.
Educators and parents play a key role in shaping positive attitudes and behaviours towards screen time and the use of technology devices. As technology rapidly enters the family home and classroom, educators and parents need to help children engage in appropriate, positive, and safe ways to use digital resources.
Surely Screen Time Has Advantages
We know that educational, social and interactive screen time is much better for you than watching videos, shows or movies.
Would you prefer to sit in a university lecture for an hour or have access to a video that you can pause or go back and listen to complex, difficult to understand parts, over and over. If many of these lecture style classes are being recorded, students can enjoy this advantage.
Traditional learning spaces are constructed in ways that often best suit the teacher, or student majority, rather than the very wide number of diverse student participants. In virtual learning spaces students have the flexibility, based on time and different tools, to experiment and find ways that help them learn best.
There are many different best practice strategies that help students, and screen time, have the greatest impact.
One of the biggest problems with screen time is that children usually sit while as they watch or interact with them. Extended time sitting around and not moving, or with bad posture, leads to health issues and even effects on metabolism. Tech neck, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues more likely for sedentary people. Within the same conversations we sharing about screen time we also have to ask ourselves how active we are.
Let’s Be Interesting!
One of the worst things you can say to a child, especially a teenager, is the word “NO.” There is an argument that can be put that just as too much screen time is not healthy. It can also be put that too much reading, isolation and other behaviours without isolation, physical recreation and exercise is also not balanced. It is important that young people become “interesting.” Interesting represents balance, diverse hobbies and interests, variety and the ability to participate in a range of settings. Screen time can be unhealthy but let’s focus on developing diverse and interesting habits, routines and behaviours. The future depends on young people who are adaptive critical thinkers.
Maybe the focus is best NOT on what we cannot do , but what we CAN or SHOULD do.
- Social Media
- …. and other interesting things!
Interesting people have the greatest impact!
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Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Mainland China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education 2015 and 2016. Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.