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Caroline Dennigan

Caroline Dennigan Blog Posts
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Screen time for kids: How much is too much?

First of all, what exactly is screen time? Well, screen time is the time spent in front of a screen, such as watching programmes on television, using computers, playing video or hand-held computer games, using IPads and smartphones.

From a very young age, kids can get addicted to IPads, and research has shown children as young as two spending excessive amounts of time on their IPads which in the short term can lead to sleep disorders, inability to concentrate, aggression and the inability to communicate with others. 

But what about long term damage? Can excessive screen time cause permanent damage to a child's still developing brain? Between birth and the age of three, their brain is still developing and studies have shown that if screen time is used regularly during this all-important period, it can stifle critical brain development on which future development and learning is based. 

''When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones,'' says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Medicine, ''they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon,'' he says, ''is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people's attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.''

How much screen-time is too much?

In 2016, the latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) were published: 

Children under 18 months should avoid screen time, other than video-chatting.

Children aged 18 months to 2 years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they're seeing.

Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them.

Children aged 6 years and older should have consistent limits on the time they spend on electronic media and the types of media they use.

You might be interested in this post: Should I let my child use their device for learning, or is it just distracting?

However, newer recommendations do suggest that children over the age of two should not watch more than two hours of screen time daily. Screen time limitations are designed to allow time for your child to engage in healthy, fun activities which are important for health and normal development. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics say that television, the internet and other screen-based media (including smartphones) should be completely banned for infants and children under the age of two. In the UK however, the government have not released any guidelines. 

'It's generally agreed that many of today's children spend too much time in front of a screen – and too little on physical activity. The real question is – what can we do about it? ' NHS Online

What screen time limits, if any, do you have in place for your child?

As with many parental-related issues, sensible boundaries are likely to be followed by most parents - especially those reading our blog! Perhaps it is enough to to be aware of the dangers, without needing government guidelines and laws.

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