The Importance of Play for Children

The Pros And Cons Of Screen Time

screensScreen 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?

2 boys phone

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.

ipad child adult

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.

child laptop

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.

consol

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.

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8 Comments

  • Letsret

    Sometimes I think my grandchildren spend too much time on their iphones or tablets, but they have also learned a lot from them.  My grandson has an inquisitive mind so he’s always looking up how things work.  I think the tablets are great for learning tools like that and your right some of those TV shows for children really are great learning tools as well.  I think the big thing is the time factor; to control how much time the youngsters are on these devices.  I’m going to pass your article along to my children. 

    Reply
    • Hannah

      Thank you for your comment, yes screens can be a good learning tool however you are right screen time should be monitored and we should ensure that children do not spend too much on screens. Children need a mixture of all different types of experiences, not just one.

      Reply
  • Richard Hoffmann

    Hello Hannah,

    This is quite a controversial subject for many as the studies that are available for this type of exposure, do not cover decades to accurately assess the target segment as the technology is still relatively young. 

    Getting lost in the virtual world is definitely being highlighted as an increasing problem where children are 1. not spending enough time outdoors, developing essential skills, and 2. not learning to interact with other kids on a personal level. 

    The access to potentially harmful content is something that also needs to be monitored and protection from online predators is also a serious issue for many parents.

    Thanks for an informative article and some food for thought when deciding on how to expose kids responsibly to the advantages of technology.

    Rich

    Reply
    • Hannah

      Thank you, I agree with a lot of your comments and I think it highlights a lot of what and why we struggle with screen time and what we should be concerned about.

      I think screens are wonderful for a whole load of reasons but we should be very cautious and keep an eye on our children as, like you say, there are important skills that they can only learn by being in the ‘real’ world.

      Reply
  • Parmi

    Yes, it’s so true isn’t it? I mean everything nowadays revolves around screens or some sort or another. I’m not even that old, and when I was young, I didn’t spend even a quarter of a time looking at screens. My mom always gave me the scare saying that I’ll lose my eyesight if I watch too much TV so I was very cautious on how much TV I actually watched. Like you said, too much screen time is definitely bad for mental health. Sometimes I feel it too when I’m staring infront of my computer screen for too long. 

    Do you feel that screen time has hindered kids ability to socialize? I constantly hear this debate and just wanted to get your opinion.

    Reply
    • Hannah

      Children can still socialise through screens, which is much more
      common now than I remember in the past. I do think it can inhibit a
      childs ability to socialise face to face.

      This is why although I
      do think that screens have their benefits, we do need to be cautious and
      ensure that children spend just as much time in the ‘real’ world with
      ‘real’ people as it is so easy to get lost in the ‘virtual’ world.

      Reply
  • Cathy

    Screen time certainly consume us whether we like it or not. My kids use it when they finish their homework, something we promise they could have, but as a result, they are so glued to it that whenever someone walks through the living room, they don’t even pay any attention. When something loud happens in the kitchen, they aren’t even bothered. It makes me worried sometimes when they become total oblivious to their surrounding during their screen time. 

    Reply
    • Hannah

      Screen time has its benefits but there are also a lot of things as parents we need to keep an eye on.

      Screens are incredibly addictive and it is so easy to get lost and carried away when using them.

      I do not blame you for being concerned about your children when they are on screens, it is important that children learn to be aware of what is going on around them as this will keep them safe when out in the world.

      Reply

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