- 2 mins
Kids and Screen Time: Fact vs Myth
Before we go any further, let us assume that we are talking about our kids having leisure screen time. As a preface – I do not allow my kids, who are 13 and 8, on social media.
Screen time is detrimental to one’s health – Fact or Myth?
It is safe to say that our kids avoiding screen time is near impossible in today’s day and age. If you’re like me and grew up in the 90s, you may be familiar with the paranoia around the damage that TV screens may do to our eyesight. 30+ years on, my eyes are still not square. I am, though, wearing spectacles that have a built-in blue light reflector.
Research by Tosini et al. used by Billings Jackson Design to develop the Sky View Wellness Table Lamp states that light emitted by LEDs, broadly used for lighting screens, appears to cast a white light despite being predominantly blue. The publication concludes that we may be able to tolerate some exposure (days to months) to blue light without sustaining any significant damage. Yet, more research is needed to determine if this applies to more extensive disclosure.
While having screen time, my children tend to sit in the weirdest positions. I can say from personal experience that it is never too late to work on correcting posture. If it’s the end of the day and I see my children slouching on the couch, I usually let them be. Especially if they’ve spent ample time being physically active.
So to answer our question: Is screentime bad for our health? In short, probably yes. But it would appear that humans can tolerate moderate exposure to screens without sustaining unrepairable damage.
To improve levels of screen time, try applying the following strategies:
Limit screen time
A 2016 study (by The American Academy of Pediatrics) recommended 1 hour per day for children aged 2–5 years and advised agreeing to a limit with children over six years of age.
Break it up
When excessive amounts of screen time in inevitable – like online classes or homework –introduce movement breaks as frequently as possible. For better posture, encourage sitting on hard surfaces such as the floor. By breaking up time spent in front of a screen, you’re allowing your child’s eyes to rest. Two 30-minute screen sessions can feel like even more of a treat than one 60-minute session, too!
Android users can benefit from the nifty Family Link app by Google, which allows you to set a limit on screen time, among other things.
It’s best to avoid screens before bedtime – Fact or Myth?
It’s recommended to avoid screens before bedtime due to blue light exposure. The blue light that comes from screens suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a natural hormone that makes us feel drowsy.
A study by the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends 1 hour of screen-free time. I listen to podcasts when I have trouble sleeping. My kids sometimes listen to Moshi and my partner also uses meditation apps.
All screen time is equal – Fact or Myth?
To me, this is an easy and robust MYTH. Watching hours of unboxing videos on YouTube may be interesting for some of us, but we can probably imagine myriads of more productive ways to use screen time. Studies have shown that parking a child in front of a documentary series by David Attenborough may not end in raising geniuses. I know, shocker!
The study by the Canadian Paediatric Society also affirms that interacting with our children during viewing time will positively affect the benefits. So why not kill two birds (figuratively) with one stone? Sit and enjoy screen time with your children. You’ll be able to monitor the quality of your kids’ screen time while interacting with them – it’s a great way to bond at any age!
And as I come to the end of this article, I cannot but smile as I think of an old friend who once said, “The key to a happy life is moderation. Even in abstinence!” So yes, moderation is key.
If you made it this far – take a break, or your eyes will become square!
Check out our blog Healthy Technology Habits for Kids to learn more.
Reid Chassiakos YL, Radesky J, Christakis D, Moreno MA, Cross C; COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA. Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Pediatrics. 2016 Nov;138(5):e20162593. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2593. PMID: 27940795.
Stiglic, N., & Viner, R. M. (2019). Effects of screentime on the health and well-being of children and adolescents: a systematic review of reviews. BMJ open, 9(1), e023191. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023191
Canadian Paediatric Society, Digital Health Task Force, Ottawa, Ontario (2017). Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world. Paediatrics & child health, 22(8), 461–477. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/pxx123