I feel like a broken record repeating American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation to parents that kids should not exceed 2 hours a day on screens. Let’s face it, in our day and age it might be impossible or even not realistic at all to follow those guidelines. Maybe this is why the average time kids are on devices according to Common Sense Media’s is between 6 to 9 hours a day (excluding school related work and sleep).
Kids have so many screens at their disposal, from phones, to tablets, computers, game systems, and TVs. On each screen, kids have access to so many different and tempting applications — the internet, social media, video streaming, gaming. On each there is what we may call good data and not so good data. I am not just talking about violence, sex, and other inappropriate content, I am talking about the junk content that adds no value (like this slime video). All that information can be consumed differently, from passive watching which could be beneficial (or not, depending on the type of content), to active use of internet and social media, and the co-consuming of data with others, which may lead to a group discussion (or not).
With all those devices and all that data, 2 hours a day on screens is not realistic. It’s a wishful thinking but may set ourselves up for failure.
If we continue measuring 2 hours, what should we put under the screen time umbrella?
Should we count reading online as screen time? How about educational games? Should screen time for homework be considered as screen time?
A recent study found that focusing on time is probably not what we need to focus on, as this is not what necessarily the cause for addiction. The findings suggest that how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction.
In my opinion, the truth is somewhere in the middle, between AAP’s recommendation and this new study. In my opinion spending 10 hours a day everyday consuming positive screen content may spark different issues that will result in the same problems of screen addiction and development problems. But until we prove it and back it up with data you will have to trust me on it, balance is the key. Balancing junk food and healthy food, balancing friends and family, are all things we already know we need to balance, but among that balancing technology’s time and content. The chances for screen time addiction go down when we balance.
Regardless if you agree to the concept of moderation or not, this research provided a tool to measure screen addiction for kids ages 4 to 11. Those 9 questions can help parents identify the red flags that suggest our kids might have a screen addiction. I think you should be aware of them, and keep on watching for them with your kids.
☑ Can’t Stop — Is it hard for your child to stop using screen media?
☑ Loss of Interest — Is technology the only thing that seems to motivate your child?
☑ Preoccupation — Are the screens all your child seems to think about?
☑ Psychosocial Consequences — Does your child’s screen media use interferes with family activities?
☑ Serious Problems Due to Use — Does your child’s tech use causes problems for the family? Are you fighting about it too often?
☑ Withdrawal — Does your child shows a lot of frustration when he/she cannot use their screen?
☑ Time on devices keeps on going up — Does the amount of time your child wants to use screen media keeps on increasing?
☑ Deception — Does your child sneak using his/ her device?
☑ Escape/Relieve Mood — Does it sound familiar “When my child has had a bad day, screen media seems to be the only thing that helps him/her feel better”?
If you see your child checks many or all of the boxes above, it’s time to speak with your doctor. Your pediatrician and/or a child psychologist is a good place to start. If your child isn’t there yet, this is wonderful! However, I still urge you to consider establishing good habits to maintain the balance. To start, follow the 3Cs rules, Conversation — Charging station — Checkpoints, this will give you a solid back for balancing screen time.
You should also set boundaries and limit the amount of time the kids are on their devices during the day. Remember, 9 hours a day is too much! Suggest screen time alternatives whenever it is possible. And get the kids active. Adding sports to their daily routine may go a long way — they will be offline and in shape.
Last but not least, be a role model. Put your device aside when you are with your children or nearby. When you set a good example of using screens in moderation and exercising regularly, most likely your kids will follow you.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com