Excessive screen use and our kids

By Dr Tommy TranGeneral05 Oct 2017

With advancing technology, our children seem to be spending more and more time using screens. The American academy of Paediatrics recommends NO screen time for children less than 2 years of age, and a maximum of 2 hours for children older than 2 years.  But how does excessive screen time effect our children physically, developmentally and psychologically.

Physically, there is a relationship between the amount of screen use and reduced physical activity, reduced strength, increased high calorie food consumption, increased levels of obesity and difficulties with sleep. The mere presence of a screen in the bedroom can decrease the amount your child sleeps by an average of 20 minutes…even if it isn’t turned on.

Developmentally, toddlers who watch 2-3 hours of television are 2.7 times more likely to have a speech and language delay. Toddlers with higher levels of screen use are more likely to have difficulties at school with reduced vocabulary, lower levels of numeracy and decreased classroom engagement.

Psychologically, excessive screen use in toddlers has been shown to increase emotional reactivity, aggression and externalising behaviours. Increased screen use is positively correlated with higher levels of anxiety and depression in teenagers.

There are some benefits of screens though. Young children who watch shows with their parents have improved vocabulary. A small amount of social media use in adolescents improves socialisation.

Even though some screen use has been shown to be beneficial, it is important to put limits in place. Here are my 4 simple tips:

  1. Model good behaviour – limit your own screen use to 2 hours a day
  2. Designate some screen free times as a family e.g. meal times
  3. Remove all screen from the bedroom and charge devices in the kitchen
  4. Watch shows together as this stimulates discussion and engagement

Good luck!

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