The Pros and Cons of Increased Screen Time
In today’s society, it’s pretty widely accepted (and expected) to see kids and teenagers with their eyes glued to a screen. As kids get older, the need for phones, tablets, and other digital devices increases. However, that often leads to debates on whether that increased screen time is a good thing or not.
The average 8- to 12-year-old spends 4 to 6 hours a day watching screens, while teenagers spend up to 9 hours.
Some screen time might be necessary for school and other extracurricular activities. However, if you’re a parent, you know that the majority of that time is spent interacting with friends, scrolling through social media, and watching videos.
So, is increased screen time really all that bad? Are there any potential benefits to consider? Let’s cover some of the pros and cons so you can decide the best screen time solutions for your family.
Pro: Boosted Communication Skills
One of the biggest benefits of screen time is that it can improve your child’s communication skills. Over 10% of children have some type of communication disorder. Others might just be shy or have a hard time putting themselves out there in social situations.
Kids and teens often feel “safer” behind screens. Whether they’re texting, using social media, or even gaming, it provides a comfortable environment for them to open up and be themselves. While it’s still important to set boundaries and ensure they’re getting real-world interaction, communicating on digital devices can teach them important skills they can use in face-to-face settings.
Con: Vision Concerns
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that spending hours a day looking at a screen can be harmful to your eyes. If you’ve ever spent a prolonged period of time staring at a computer screen, you’ve likely experienced computer vision syndrome. The same syndrome can occur when you’re spending too much time looking at a phone or tablet.
This type of vision syndrome can cause
- Dry eyes
There are things you can do or offer to your kids and teens to help prevent the strain often caused by screens, including blue light glasses.
Whether your kids already wear prescription glasses or not, blue light glasses use lenses meant to filter the “damaging” light that emanates from digital devices. It reduces eye strain and can help to prevent headaches. If your kids are complaining about headaches or tiredness, the best thing you can do is reduce their screen time and encourage other activities.
Even if your kids feel tired or like they can’t keep their eyes open, too much screen time can also make it difficult for your child to sleep at night. This is largely due to that same damaging blue light, but it also has to do with stimulation.
Most kids using digital devices are either interacting with friends or looking at pictures or videos. That sends signals to the brain that it’s time to “stay awake.” A good rule of thumb is to cut off screens at least an hour before your child goes to bed.
Pro: Good Content Promotes Positivity
One of the biggest issues parents can face with screen time is the type of content their kids are viewing. If your child is watching videos or playing games on their phone all day, it can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, which can cause health issues and lead to obesity.
However, if you monitor the content they’re viewing and encourage positive platforms, you can actually promote learning, boost their creativity, and improve their problem-solving skills. Watching TV can also be an alternataive to provide balance for your kids who are always watching small screens in close proximity to their eyes.
Good quality content should always promote positivity and healthy messages, including things like taking care of physical health, getting along with family members, and sharing. Good content should also encourage kids to spend time away from their screens. Look for shows or games that teach kids how to do an activity or craft. They’ll learn through the content, then step away from the device to take action.
Some content can even encourage physical activity. There are plenty of videos and apps designed to help kids get moving.
This point could also be a “con,” if your child is looking at the wrong kind of content.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is to monitor what they’re viewing on a regular basis. Set security limits on all digital devices in the house, and encourage your kids to use those devices in “common areas” like the living room or kitchen, rather than in their rooms. Additionally, make sure they know how to stay safe online and explain the risks.
As you can see, increased screen time isn’t all bad. When you have healthy boundaries in place and your kids are involved in other activities, spending some time on digital devices can actually be beneficial. Consider these pros and cons as you set limits on your kids’ screen time, and consider whether it’s helping or hurting them.
About the Author
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in education, mental health, family lifestyle and online safety. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. You can follow her on Twitter.