Social Commentary

Top 10 Tips: Children & Screen time


Photo courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015. 

I was reading an interesting article on children and screen time this weekend in the Times, Screen time and your child: what every parent needs to know, so thought I would share the most salient and pertinent points of the article:

  1. Professor Sonia Livingstone at LSE, a researcher on children and technology and an advisor to the UK Council For Internet Safety, thinks that parents need new guidance away from thinking purely in terms of time limits, towards sharing more of what their children are doing online.
  2. All screen time is not equal; we need to look at the quality of what our children are doing online; are they creative or passively consuming. ‘The challenge is for parents to work out whether they are doing something creative and imaginative or something mindless.’ says Professor Livingstone.
  3. On setting time limits: ‘If they are getting the grades you hope for and expect, if they are lively, creative, talkative and able to develop interests and hobbies, those are indicators that your child is fine.’
  4. Keeping an eye on the balance is key: Are they playing sports, going outside enough, and getting enough face to face interaction?
  5. More than three and a half hours a day on social networks is linked to low self esteem and depression. One study showed that the happiest 10-15 year olds spent no more than one hour a day on social networks.
  6. Aric Sigman, a psychologist, has come up with some time limits. He recommends 30 minutes to 1 hour a day of recreational screen time for 3 to 7 year olds, one hour for 7 to 12 year olds, 90 minutes for 12 to 15 year olds, and two hours for teens aged 16 and over. Wishful thinking. But it’s a good goal.
  7. Start having screen time with the family: make time each week where the whole family goes online and shows each other interesting sites or fun things they’ve discovered. Livingstone recommends one hour per week.
  8. For 15 years the American Academy of Paediatrics has recommended no screen time at all for under twos, but there is evidence that short bursts of time on interactive educational apps can help two to five year olds learn, says Dr. Gummer, a psychologist and play specialist.
  9. Teach your children responsibility about screen time. For younger children, you may need to set time limits and routines, for example two hours a day is accepted by many experts and police them. For older children 11 and over, it’s important to involve them in the process. ‘Parents should help them make decisions rather than trying to control every click which is impossible anyway. They need the skills and resilience to make sensible choices, which are the same skills they need to do their homework and going to bed. Parents can help them get into routines and explain to them that more than two hours a day of screen time is too much.’ says Dr. John Coleman, a teen psychologist researching a book on parents and screens.
  10. Have a screen free day. Boredom is a very important educational skill  because it gives them time and space to create and think about the things they want to do. Coleman recommends one totally screen free day maybe once a week.

Excerpts from The Times Saturday September 12, 2015