How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Young Children?

Whether it’s video calling friends and family, looking at social media, working, or playing video games, it’s very likely that you are spending a good chunk of your day gazing at a phone or computer screen. 

Children, especially young children who have been surrounded by this technology for their entire lives, are often no different. With an increase in everything tech, parents may begin to notice the way it impacts their young children’s brains. 

While there are certainly benefits to plopping your kid down in front of a show, movie, or game to unwind, parenting tips say that too much screen time may actually have some negative impacts on your child’s health. Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding the Consequences of Too Much Screen Time

Many of us have been there: after a couple of hours of looking at your phone or the computer, eye strain, blurred vision, and maybe even a headache all begin to settle in. 

Too much screen time for individuals of any age can cause some notable health concerns, but the underdeveloped, influential minds children are even more susceptible to harm. Children are also predisposed to the enjoyment of activities that involve screen time, such as video games and TV, which makes it a real battle to find a balance.

Here are some of the ways too much screen time may impact your child:

  • Disrupting sleep. Looking at an electronic device for an extended period of time exposes your eyes to much more bright, blue light than one would naturally receive. This may end up tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime, making it much more difficult for you to fall asleep. While this occurs for everyone, it is especially harmful for children (who need more sleep than adults).
  • Causing “tunnel vision.” When kids are allowed lots of screen time from a very early age, they are taught that whatever is on their screen is deserving of more attention than anything else. A child that has access to a smartphone or tablet at an early age might develop a sense of “tunnel vision” and be uninterested in the real world around them.
  • Leading to mental health problems. Higher levels of screen time can lead to irritability and increased anxiety due to overstimulation. Oftentimes, children cannot tell when they are becoming overstimulated from screens so it may go undetected without proper care spent limiting screen time.

Screen Time Guidelines for Children

So, too much screen time can be detrimental to kids, but how much is too much? The answer will depend on your child’s age and stage of development. 

Experts suggest that it’s safe for parents to introduce up to an hour of screen time, specifically with activities or programming of value, once a child has reached two years of age. In general, the less screen time your young child is exposed to, the better.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to completely eradicate screens from your child’s life; realistically, many households contain many electronic devices frequently used for entertainment and for legitimate functions.

Try to stick to alternative activities – like reading books, playing with toys, trying out crafts – as much as possible to keep your young child engaged. 

When your child turns 5, you can start allowing more lengthy sessions with screens, but make sure to always monitor screen usage so that it does not interfere with sleep habits, physical activity, or social connections. 

Takeaway: All Things in Moderation

Screens and technology can be incredibly useful tools for learning, communication, and entertainment. Not only this, but they have become almost essential in our tech-centered society. 

While there is no way to entirely prohibit screen time for growing kids, it is highly encouraged to limit their time exposed to screens while they are in the early stages of development. Too much screen time can affect attention span, focus, and other mental processes that are essential for young brains to learn.

While screens and the interesting things that appear on them may seem tempting now, there are even more interesting things to see and learn in the world outside of the screen. 

Developing screen limiting habits at an early age can help your child to learn how to experience and appreciate the world around them. They will likely thank you for it.

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