Have you heard your child say one of these things?
We’ve all heard the recommendations on how much screen time kids are supposed to be having. But for a lot of us parents, it’s a struggle to enforce the limits. During school holidays it can be especially hard to prise the kids off the computer or iPad and get them playing outside.
If you’re feeling guilty about how much time your children are spending in front of a screen, you’re not alone. By the time kids are 16 years old, 80 per cent of them are exceeding the recommended limit of two hours a day. (For two- to five-year-olds, the recommended daily limit is one hour. Below two years, no exposure at all is recommended. That means you’re not supposed to be watching TV while feeding your baby. Seriously.)
Professor Stephen Houghton from the University of WA is currently heading up a massive study into kids and screen use. He knows that most children are having more than the recommended amount of screen time, partly because so many schools have kids using computers and iPads.
“You have to question whether those guidelines are really viable,” he tells iVillage Australia.
But Professor Houghton has come up with some warning signs that kids are starting to spend too long in front of screens. These include…
- Kids constantly begging, “Just a few minutes more!” when they’ve already passed their limit for the day.
- Kids becoming preoccupied with screens. Are they always thinking about them, even when they’re not using them?
- Kids going to bed late because they’ve been on one of their devices.
- Kids admitting that they like screen time because it makes them feel better.
For children whose screen time is really excessive, the signs are more obvious. They include...
- Missing meals because they're so absorbed with whatever they're into.
- Having problems sleeping.
- Becoming irritable.
And yes, some kids' screen time is truly excessive, in anyone's terms. Professor Houghton says some children are reporting more than 14 hours a day.
It's pretty obvious that screens are here to stay. That's not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of educational apps for kids, school projects are easier with so much information accessible on line, and teens separated by distance can keep up friendships online. Professor Houghton says there's even evidence that particular types of adventure games can be really helpful for kids with disorders like ADD.