In today's world, screens are an unavoidable part of our daily lives. With children spending more and more time on screens, parents are understandably concerned about the impact this can have on their health and well-being. So, the question is, how much screen time should your kids be watching? In this blogpost, we will explore this question in detail, and provide you with some tips on how to manage your child's screen time in a healthy and responsible way.
Firstly, it's important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The amount of screen time that is appropriate for your child will depend on a variety of factors, including their age, developmental stage, and individual needs and interests. We have provided some guidelines that can be a helpful starting point.
Current Ministry of Health guidelines recommend zero recreational screen time for children under 2, less than an hour per day for kids aged 2 to 5, and fewer than two hours per day for those aged 5 to 17. Try limiting to high-quality programming, with a parent or caregiver watching alongside the child to help them understand what they are seeing. Some programes for 4 year olds actually help them to count, learn colours, shapes etc. Children 0 to 2 years old would rather be playing with blocks, bubbles, toys and spending time with you.
For children aged 6 years and older, it's important to ensure that screen use does not interfere with other important activities, such as physical activity, socialising, and sleep. It is hard as they're playing with their school friends online so you don't want them to miss out but it shouldn't come before real socialising in person. It's also recommended that parents establish clear rules around screen use, such as no screens during mealtimes or before bedtime, and encourage children to take regular breaks from screens to engage in other activities. For our family we decided no mobile phones until they started High School and turned 13 as they would be catching buses etc. However, I do understand some children needing a phone earlier due to different living circumstances, walking home from school but for us, 13 was a good age.
It's important to note that the quality of the screen time matters just as much as the quantity. High-quality screen time can provide educational benefits, such as teaching children about the world around them, helping them develop language and literacy skills, and encouraging creativity and problem-solving. However, low-quality screen time, such as passive watching of inappropriate or violent content, can have negative effects on children's development and behaviour.
To ensure that your child's screen time is of high quality, look for programming that is age-appropriate, educational, and interactive. Avoid programming that is violent, overly stimulating, or designed to sell products to children. You can also use tools such as parental controls and content filters to limit your child's exposure to inappropriate content.
In addition to managing your child's screen time, it's important to model healthy screen habits yourself. Children learn by example, so if you are constantly checking your phone or watching TV, they are likely to do the same. Try to limit your own screen time, especially around your children, and encourage other family members and caregivers to do the same. We've all said to our kids "We never sat in front of iPads or played on Xbox's growing up" which is true but they also didn't exist then. I see so many adults at parks, playgroups, shops, doctors office, school pick up time on their phones. Kids do what they see. Unless you need to check your emails for work, try and keep your phone use to a minimum so you can lead by example.
In conclusion, the amount of screen time that is appropriate for your child will depend on a variety of factors, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, by following the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, and focusing on high-quality screen time, you can help ensure that your child's screen use is healthy, educational, and enjoyable. Remember to model healthy screen habits yourself, and encourage your child to take regular breaks from screens to engage in other activities. By doing so, you can help your child develop healthy habits around screen use that will serve them well throughout their lives.