The Pros And Cons Of Screen Time
Screen time is a big subject, slowly but surely technology is taking over our life. You walk the streets and you will see loads of people looking at screens. As I type this both my husband and I are looking at screens, plus we have a third screen on which we are both ignoring.
Screens are absolutely everywhere. So is it any wonder that our children want to stare at screens as well?
Are there any benefits to screens?
My son does have screen time, he watches TV and uses a tablet. Do we limit or restrict his use? Sometimes but not all the time.
The biggest benefit to me with screen time is it gives everyone a chance to relax. Life is hectic with work, school, hobbies, stress, pressure, and responsibility. We all need to be able to relax and unwind, that is including children.
The pressure and stress children experience may not be the same as adults but it’s still there. Right now we are currently trying to potty train my son, it can be tough. By giving my son the tablet whilst he is sitting on the potty or toilet helps him to relax and not get himself upset because he thought he needed a wee or poo but it’s not coming out.
I also believe that in the right circumstances, children can learn a lot from screens.
How screens can aid learning
I do believe my son has benefited from watching TV and playing on the tablet. He has learnt a lot from watching CBeebies and YouTube Kids.
Could he have learnt these things from other methods? Of course. Learning comes in many different forms. Learning from screens is a very passive form of learning but it’s still learning. I see it as no different from an adult learning how to cook or change a fuse in a plug via YouTube.
I think the thing a lot of people struggle with is how much the world has changed in such a short space of time. The reality is the internet and technology is such a huge part of our lives, and our children won’t know a world without it.
However, I don’t believe children can learn from technology/ screens alone. I do believe they need the opportunity to learn from many different resources. Screens are only one resource.
The downside to screens
I think the downside comes from those children who spend too long in front of screens, too much of anything is not good for you and screens can be very addictive.
In terms of learning, If you are sitting there watching others how to do something, like dancing, you might be able to learn/ memorise the moves but you won’t gain the whole experience. Passive learning is good but it won’t give you all the information like how something feels, smells, looks, sounds like.
It’s like trying to describe slime to someone, how you describe it will never compare to actually experiencing slime. This is why passive learning alone is not enough.
Too much screen time can also impact mental health.
The effects of screens on mental health
I mentioned earlier about how addictive screens can be, it’s not really hard to see how. Technology is an amazing invention and it’s easy to get lost in it. I’m sure we’ve all done it, went online/ put on a game/ turned the TV on for ‘just a minute’ and before you know it hours have passed.
It’s so easy to get lost in the virtual world, there is so much available to us. However, what is the long term affect of too much time in front of screens.
Two of the biggest problems linked to too much screen time is depression and anxiety. This can sometimes be a double-edged sword.
Increased amounts of time in front of screens can cause you to withdraw, which brings about feelings of depression and anxiety, which then causes you to withdraw even further into the safety of your screen.
If allowed to withdraw this can exacerbate the situation, leading to a downward spiral. A large proportion of suicides have been linked to prolonged use of screens.
How to handle screen time
There are good and bad with regard to screen time, screens can be useful tool to aid relaxation and learning. However, they should also be used with caution, too much screen time can impact your learning and mental health.
So how do we get the balance right?
The first and most important step is to set rules and boundaries, once these are agreed and in place ensure they affect everyone. There is no use saying no screens at the dinner table if you are sat there on your phone.
Think about what will work for you and your family. Some families will benefit from a fairly relaxed approach whereas some will need to implement a more strict and structured approach. Neither is wrong nor right.
We are fairly relaxed in our approach. All of us, including my son, have a lot of different experiences. We spend just as much time away from screens as we do in front of them.
If we feel that anyone has spent too much time in front of a screen then we make more of an effort to stay away and do something else.
However, if we feel that we have done too much and need to relax then we may stay in and have a movie day.
At the end of the day, you are the parent so you need to set the rules and example. How much input your child has will depend on their age and maturity, however as the parent it’s your job to guide them and look after their welfare.