Screen Time, Children and its Affects

I have three boys and they all want to be on a device.  To share it just isn’t good enough, it sparks arguments, frustration, short tempers and aggression.   I don’t like how it makes them behave.  Aside from that, when they are doing other things either together or solo that don’t involve a screen, they seem so much happier.   So if it makes them so moody and aggressive why do they crave to use it so much?

My concern is how it’s affecting their behaviour, their focus, their concentration – the development of their brains and their reliance upon it.

It has become an obsession among many youngsters, to get on a screen has become a need or you could go as far to say in some cases an addiction. The ever growing desire to be in the virtual world just for another 5 minutes is a pressing issue, because in my experience 5 minutes is never enough!

It’s clear that it’s not a good idea to let children be on a screen for too long.  But there aren’t any clear guidelines in this country as yet.  In some countries there are guidelines, for example in the U.S. they recommended that under 2 years a child should not be in front of a screen at all, and over 2 years no longer than two hours per day was the maximum limit.  Other countries such as Australia, Canada, Taiwan and France also have their own guidelines or laws.

So in the UK it’s up to our personal parental judgement to decide how to manage this with our children. It seems that most of the guidelines are based upon educational or non-educational.  My children play on Minecraft which some argue has an educational element and creative skills are harnessed.  However whether it’s Minecraft or Moshi Monsters it still creates obsessional behaviour between them.  How about the more advanced gaming that can be aggressive in itself?

Going off on a tangent a bit there, because my children are still fairly young and it’s affecting them already and there are still many other things for them to be drawn to.  It seems their concentration and focus is affected which in turn is not helping their learning at home i.e. homework, reading etc.

While looking into advice on screen time, its effects and how much screen time is healthy for children I found that it can bring about issues with concentration, cognitive and physical health, moodiness, restlessness, face-to-face contact, lack of social contact, change in dopamine levels causing addiction and sleep disruption due to the ‘blue light’ that is emitted on screens.  Together with these concerns, teenagers who are arguably harder to manage with regards to screen usage are most commonly effected by their sleep.  The more time they spend on computers or mobile phones, the less they sleep – and what do teenagers require a lot of?  Sleep of course.

Although I do have rules, sometimes they get broken and even those rules aren’t quite having the desired effect.  So I’ve decided to take a good look at myself and how I behave with screens in front of them – with my phone, laptop, television and so on.  Giving people your full attention when required is really important, and a necessary skill to display, thus not using it at the inappropriate times!

On top of having a word with myself, I’m changing the way they use devices.  So if they get 1 or 2 hours hours a day then they’ll get shorter stints so there’s less chance of them displaying ‘screen crash’ behaviour.  Well that’s the plan! I hope that making these changes will help them.  I don’t want to be a total fun gun but I also don’t want the screen time to be damaging them both in the short and long term.




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