Definition (noun): Time spent using a device such as a computer,
TV, smart devices (phones/tablets) or gaming console.
Technology has become part of our day-to-day life, and in some cases it has invaded our life. It is a general belief that technology aids in learning. This is only one side of the coin. It is important to know the negative side of excessive screen time as well. Digital media has both positive and negative effects on your child’s development; this is an attempt to guide you on using digital media judiciously.
What are the advantages of digital advancement?
It helps to create and learn in ways that are infinite. Digital learning provides lot of informational content targeting various age groups.
What can I do to help my child gain the most from the digital world?
The best way to maximize the benefits from learning digitally is to choose the programmes carefully; watch and read along with your child and help them understand the content.
What are the negative effects of screen time?
Everything comes with pros and cons; easy availability of digital devices such as TV, tablets, smart phones is the reason why most children nowadays have access to more than one device. This means children are spending increasing amount of time in front of digital screens.
Will excess screen time have any detrimental effects?
Screen time exposure has clearly shown a negative impact on concentration and face-to-face social interaction. Good social interaction is necessary to develop empathy and compassion, which are necessary to live well in a society.
Face-to-face interactions are also necessary to develop linguistic skills, along with the ability to have conversations—to know when and how to listen and contribute.
Too much screen time also has an effect on sleep cycle and quality of sleep.
How much time should a child spend in front of a screen?
It is difficult to keep children off digital devices completely, and there isn’t a clear cut off time which will enable you to benefit from the strengths of the digital world, while avoiding the negativity.
To help families, experts in child neurology, child development and public health officials from America and Europe have come up with policies. Here is a summary of some of their recommendations:
- 0 to 2 years of age: Avoid digital media completely.
- 2 – 6 years of age: Restrict the screen time for 1 hour, ensuring you choose high quality learning programmes and watch with the child to maximize the benefit. During this time, speak to your child about the effects of digital world, highlighting how important it is to play and spend time with other children.
- 6 years and older: Place appropriate time limits and restrictions on type of media. Introduce the concept of online privacy; respect for other individuals online, just like offline.
- Have clear ground rules, such as no media during breakfast or dinner.
- No digital devices at bedtime or in the bedroom.
How do I cut down on the screen time?
The best way is to be your child’s friend. Have a frank discussion on the negative impact of digital media in development of social skills, which is the most important factor that influences their future academic success and career and most importantly, their personal life.
It is easier to cut down screen time by gradually reducing it, rather than cutting it off completely.
How do I start reducing screen time for my children?
We have only 24 hours a day; deduct sleep time, school time, play time, family time, meal time, personal care and if any time left, allocate a small portion of it for screen time. Sit down with your children and discuss this allocation with them.
Where can I learn more about screen time?
American Academy of Pediatrics has a recommendation for children’s media use, which is comprehensive and a good read.
Dr C P Ravi Kumar
Consultant Paediatric Neurologist
MRCPCH, CCT (Paediatrics)
Fellow in Paediatric Neurology
Fellow in Paediatric Epilepsy