Effects of Screen Time on Children

effects of screen time on children

Children are growing up in an era when technology is more prevalent than ever before. In fact, many of them are even born with devices in their cribs and never know the world without computers and smartphones. 

However, the development of these devices has also brought about new questions about how they affect our society. One topic that often comes up is the effect of screen time on children’s development.

This article will explore how screen time affects children and give tips on how to use screen time wisely for your child.


What is Screen Time?

Screen time is all the time a child spends using electronic devices, such as television, tablets, computers, video games, and cell phones. It is also sometimes called “media time” or “media exposure. Most will even casually refer to it as tablet time. 

Watching tv and using a tablet is the most common form of screen time. Still, there are also many other ways that children can be exposed to screens, including:

  • Online games
  • Video chat programs like Skype or FaceTime
  • Texting and instant messaging
  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram
  • Watching videos on YouTube or TikTok


How Much Screen Time Should Kids Have? 

The (AAP) American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two years old should not have exposure to any screen time at all. For older children, it recommends no more than one hour per day of “high-quality programming” that is educational and encourages learning.

Signs of Excessive Screen Time

When it comes to your child’s screen time, you should be aware of signs of excessive screen time.

  • Appearing fatigued with eye strain or headache complaints
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Has trouble concentrating in school or other activities
  • Refusing to go outside, even for playtime or exercise
  • Becoming withdrawn; they seem moody when they’re not online
  • Losing interest in social activities and sports 


List of Negative Effects of Too Much Screen Time

Why should parents limit screen time, and why should they set rules for media usage? It’s because overexposure to screens can harm your child’s health and well-being. Below are the negative impacts of the overuse of electronic devices.


1. Poor social skills

Children may also have trouble forming relationships with others because they’re so accustomed to interacting through screens instead of face-to-face communication. They might find it easier just to text someone instead of talking face-to-face. Plus, their time spent using electronic devices can limit their interaction with family and peers.


2. Lack of physical activity

Eating while watching television or playing video games can lead to weight gain and obesity. Moreover, spending time indoors using their devices reduces the amount of exercise your child does throughout the day or causes them to skip out on exercise altogether. The more passive they are, the more likely they’ll be at risk for diabetes and heart disease.


3. Higher risk of mental health issues

The effects of screen time aren’t just physical — they’re also emotional. What does too much screen time do to your brain? 

Excess screen time may also put your child at higher risk for mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. 

Social media also exposes young people to cyberbullying and other forms of abuse on the internet. Another danger is getting caught up in the hype around social media. It can lead to unrealistic expectations about what life should be like – from clothes to vacations and relationships – making it harder for teens to see their lives clearly and make good decisions about what they want from life.


4. Disruption of sleep 

Children who spend excessive time on digital devices tend to get less sleep than they should. It can lead to serious health issues, such as obesity and diabetes. Lack of sleep also leads to fatigue during the day and causes learning difficulties. Moreover, excessive screen time for kids takes away from sleep time, which is critical for brain development.

Lack of sleep isn’t the only thing that can cause problems; the blue light emitted from screens also affects your circadian rhythm. A disruption in circadian rhythm can lead to insomnia and other sleeping disorders.


5. Shorter attention spans

Too much screen time can make it harder for kids to focus and pay attention when not in front of a screen. As a result, it is challenging for them to concentrate on schoolwork or other tasks that require sustained attention.


6. Risk of other health problems

Excessive screen time leads to poor eyesight, headaches, plus hand and back problems down the road. These problems are due to eye strain from looking at a computer screen for too long as well as from poor posture when sitting in front of one for hours at a time. Vision problem risks include

  • Nearsightedness
  • Farsightedness
  • astigmatism

Overusing the hands can also result in hand pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other repetitive stress injuries. This negative consequence is particularly true if your child uses a computer mouse all day.


Read: COVID-19 Parenting Tips: Keeping Kids Safe Online


Are There Any Good Effects of Screen Time on Children?

Is screen time bad for kids entirely? The impacts of screen time on children are not all bad. Here are some of the good things about media time that you should know about:


1. It provides new opportunities to learn

Children can learn a lot from watching shows or playing educational games on a tablet or smartphone. Many apps help kids learn basic skills like counting, spelling, and reading. You can also find apps that teach them how to play an instrument or improve their athletic skills through practice games.


2. Instant Communication

When your child needs to connect with someone, and they are not around, they can use your phone or computer to get in touch with them. They can also keep in touch with distant family and friends using technology.


3. It makes them more creative and imaginative

With screen time, children can access varied media content that aids their creative growth. This can involve anything from creating ideas for stories/characters within role-playing games (ensure to choose age-appropriate games). It also helps them develop problem-solving skills as they try to complete a task or find something they need to proceed with the game or cartoon.


4. Help children learn more about the world

Children can learn about diverse cultures without leaving their homes. It allows children to watch videos from around the world instantly. This media will give them a glimpse of how people live in other countries or even how they are treated when they visit these places. It encourages children to think critically about the world around them—looking at what is going on globally from all angles, which helps them develop a sense of empathy for others.


What Can Parents Do to Limit Their Children’s Screen Time?

Here are a few ways you can limit your child’s usage of media:

  1. Limit devices to certain areas of the house. Don’t put a TV or computer in their bedroom.
  2. Make sure that you are present when your child is using screens, especially for younger children. Also, be a model of good digital behavior. 
  3. Set a time limit for using electronic devices and set up an alarm system on your device. Be consistent about enforcing these limits.
  4. Create a screen-free space in your house where children can play and do other activities that don’t involve screens. 
  5. Encourage your child to get outside and play more often. Find fun alternatives to screen time for your child: play outside, read books together at night before bed, or take walks around the neighborhood together when you have some free time!  
  6. Don’t allow your child to play video games or watch television while doing homework or chore.
  7. Make sure kids have a bedtime that includes reading books rather than using electronic devices before they fall asleep (ideally at least one hour before)
  8. Establish a family media plan to help everyone understand how and when screen time is used in your household.
  9. Check if the content they’re playing or watching is age appropriate. Monitor what your children do online and use parental controls to limit their access to certain sites, such as social media and adult content sites.


Make Sure Your Child Uses Media Time Responsibly!

Screen time isn’t all bad for kids. However, parents and guardians must keep an eye on what children do online. With so much information available, kids can easily get lost in cyberspace (or even get into trouble) if they aren’t being monitored properly.

At Children’s Medical Centers Fresno, we provide families with a high level of comfort, compassion, and convenience in pediatric care in Fresno California. Whenever you are searching for “pediatricians near me” for quality health care for your children, please do not hesitate to contact our pediatric clinic! Get to know more about our healthcare team today.

For more parenting tips, please read the CMCFresno pediatric blog and don’t hesitate to reach Children’s Medical Centers Fresno at (559) 455-1500!