A new study led by Iowa State University shows that children are better-adjusted, sleep better, have less chance of being obese, and have better behavior at school if parents limit the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. Mobile devices, computers, and television have captured children in new ways in recent years. In fact, the average child spends more than 40 hours in front of a screen, not including screens used for educational activities at school.
This is an incredible amount of screen time for young minds to absorb! This is no easy habit to break, either. Kids who have become attached to screens won’t give them up easily and reaping positive effects won’t likely be instantaneous. But, these effects will benefit children incredibly. Kids will be able to interact socially with adults and other kids better, they’ll learn to enjoy reading, and they’ll be able to exercise, play outside, and go back to creative, imaginative play. Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State professor of psychology suggests limiting children’s screen time by using an allowance system. The kids get a set amount of hours per week to watch TV or surf the web, and once time is up, that’s it. It teaches them how to use it correctly. (1)
Many parents give their kids their iPhone or their iPad and turn on educational game after educational game, thinking this is good for them. But, without limitations, kids will keep asking for more and more. Educational games soon aren’t good enough. They start turning to entertaining games and their brains begin craving this “digital candy” such as Minecraft, Flappy Birds, or Call of Duty. Math and spelling games are no longer good enough. Unmonitored Internet access in homes is becoming destructive, simply because some youth and young adults can’t shut off their need to game. They can’t do anything productive anymore and their lives are beginning to be truly negatively affected. Are we setting our kids up for failure by not setting technology guidelines at a young age? Setting up limitations is very important and necessary to do, starting at a young age. Limit your child’s access to screens, whether it’s TV, phone, iPad, or Kindle, to 1 to 2 hours a day.
Gaming and technology addiction is very real and can be extremely destructive. It is not anything to take lightly. If you are concerned that someone you know is showing signs of addiction, enforce limitations on screen time immediately and stick to it. If necessary, revoke access to the Internet, computer, or TV completely. Don’t let someone you know lose their zest for life.
By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Doan MD PhD
1. Finney, Daniel. “Study: Children need more time away from screens.” The Des Moines Register. March 31, 2014. Accessed online April 13, 2014. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2014/03/31/iowa-state-study-children-less-screen-time/7128191/
Julie Doan RN and Andrew Doan MD PhD explain why technology overuse in children will be damaging to neural development.