Too Much Screen Time for Kids: Revealing the Risks of Digital Overload

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

In today’s time, too much screen time for kids is considered normal. However, the medical society thinks that it can have detrimental effects on the overall lives of children!

Experts and studies link too much screen time to a lot of negative effects to people, in general. These include irregular sleeping patterns, problems with behavior, impaired academic performance, obesity, and other physical problems.

Learn everything you need to know about “the dangers of lengthy screen time” before it’s too late!

Disclaimer 

Please note, this article is intended to provide general information on pregnancy and diet, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The article has been reviewed by medical expert Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN.

Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary modifications during pregnancy.

What is Meant By Screen Time?

Screen time, when you think about it, is literally what it is. The term “screen time,” in a nutshell, describes how much time we spend in front of screens, including those on our phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs.

Medline Plus said that this “time” is sedentary and is actually not good for physical health.

             Screen time is a sedentary task. This means, you are inactive physically where extremely limited energy is used.”

For children, it’s the same – the amount of time they use to look at their screens. The type of screen doesn’t matter, they are all considered screen time.

DID YOU KNOW: According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), American children who are eight to twelve years old spend between four to six hours of screen time per day. Teens use up to nine hours.

Is Too Much Screen Time For Kids Bad?

Too much of something is bad – even too much water is not recommended by experts. But, what about screen time?

Without a doubt, giving children too much screen time can have bad consequences. The short version is that excessive screen time has been associated with sleep issues. These include difficulty falling asleep or getting adequate rest, as well as being focused.

In addition to that, longer screen time might interfere with children’s developing eyes, putting strain on them.

The effect on their attention spans, which makes it more difficult for them to focus on activities, is another drawback.

To help you understand it further, let’s take a look at some of the negative effects of too much screen time in each aspect.

Physical Health Effects

Yes, there are negative physical effects of screen time. In children, these negative effects can develop further and even extend when they mature.

Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle

It’s not good news. According to research, youngsters who watch too much television tend to put on weight. They engage in less physical exercise as they spend more time sitting and staring at computers. Obesity may be a result of this lack of activity and probable improper nibbling while watching television.

BioMed Central’s study said that children with four or more hours of screen time are more likely to be overweight or obese. The Dove Medical Press said that in preschool children, the average screen time was 104.6 minutes and the obesity rate was 13.1%. What more for younger children?

Vision Problems

To add to that, prolonged screen time may also be risky for our children’s eyesight.

Studies and eye care specialists have clarified this. The bad news is that prolonged screen gazing can strain the eyes, leading to symptoms including dryness, irritation, and impaired vision.

The American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) estimates that 80% of kids and teenagers participate in screen-related activities for more than two hours per day.

Even nearsightedness, which causes distant things to look hazy, might result from it. Eye care professionals advise adhering to the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, glance away from the screen and concentrate on anything 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Cognitive and Mental Health Effects

Besides physicality, too much screen time can have adverse effects on the mental and cognitive abilities of children, too.

Sleep Problems and Disruptions

Children’s sleep patterns and quality might be affected by screen time before bed, which presents problems for their general wellbeing.

Our screens produce blue light. This can suppress the hormone melatonin. In case you didn’t know, melatonin is necessary for controlling sleep-wake cycles.

As a result, having access to screens right before bedtime might make it challenging for youngsters to get to sleep and stay asleep.

DID YOU KNOW: About 50 to 90 percent of school-aged children aren’t getting enough sleep because of excessive screen time – even before getting to bed.

Cognitive Development

And another would be the development of their cognitive skills and abilities tampered with because of these screens.

Overall, children’s cognitive development will suffer from excessive screen usage.

Studies and professional opinions draw attention to this issue. Why? Because their attention spans might deteriorate. This makes it more challenging for them to study and focus.

Face-to-face contacts are essential for the development of a person’s language and social abilities.

Behavioral and Social Effects

And lastly, too much exposure to screens can also have social and behavioral effects on kids. By this, we mean both during their younger years up to when they mature.

Lack of Social Skills

Too much screen time might – not really might, but will definitely – prevent kids from learning vital social skills. Kids miss out on important face-to-face connections and authentic social experiences when they spend too much time absorbed in screens.

According to Statista’s latest records, only a mere 53 percent of parents set limits on screen time. The other half didn’t – imagine how many children have bad social skills in the years to come.

Attention Problems

Children who spend too much time on screens have a higher risk of developing attention issues.

According to research, a lot of time spent on screens in early infancy and adolescence increases the risk of developing attention issues. There’s no age – it affects everyone! But, it’s easier to teach and correct youngsters than adults!

Overexposure to screens can overstimulate the brain. This makes it more difficult for kids to focus on other activities that call for long-term attention and mental effort.

The attending Pediatrician, Dr. Jennifer Cross of the New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital said it best.

             We speculate that screens may hinder some parts of a child’s development by focusing their attention and removing alternative avenues for exploration and learning.”

She adds that because of their comfortability, adjustments can be difficult, especially for parents.

What Are Some Guidelines For Screen Time For Kids?

Guidelines for screen time depend on the children’s age. The AAP set what the appropriate screen times are for certain age groups.

  • 2 Years Old and Younger – Only when an adult is with them. Avoid leaving them with screens alone.
  • Two to Five Years Old – One hour per day
  • Five to Eight Years Old – Should be monitored. Will depend on situation and their likelihood of watching continuously
  • Nine Years and Above – Must be talked about and controlled. Proper parenting is key!

How Do You Manage Too Much Screen Time For Kids?

Managing children’s excessive screen usage is crucial for their general wellbeing. Remember, balance is key! You are the parent – you should control how much your kid is consuming!

Setting Appropriate Limits

Decide on specific screen-time limits depending on your child’s age and requirements.

Preschoolers, for instance, could benefit from having no more than an hour of screen time each day. However, older kids can have a little bit more. You can use this as a reward system for them – but, still, don’t exaggerate on their screen time.

Encouraging Alternative Activities

Another technique is to encourage them to play outside! As kids, this will be enticing.

Allow them to be active as alternatives to screen time. Kids may stay active and lessen their dependence on devices by playing simple activities like tag, riding bikes, or going to the playground.

Raising Children explains how you can combine screen time and physical activity to encourage your baby! In summary, watch videos that you can physically visit, make it a reward system, watch sports, etc.

Creating Screen-Free Zones and Hours

Lastly, creating and establishing zones and hours where screens are strictly not allowed. Designate particular portions of your home as screen-free zones.

One example would be to encourage family engagement at mealtimes. Try and prohibit the use of screens at the dining table.

FAQs

In case you’re left with a few more questions, we looked and answered the most common ones for you!

What Are the Symptoms of Too Much Screen Time? 

Too much screen time will manifest one way or another. Because of the prolonged sight to radiation, some of the symptoms could include blurred vision, headaches, dry eyes, stiff neck, neck and shoulder pain, among others.

What Are the Effects of Too Much Screen Time on Child Development? 

UNICEF said that prolonged screen time in children has adverse effects on child development. Bad social skills and inability to read faces are two of the most common.

Is Watching YouTube More Harmful Than Watching TV? 

Some might think they’re the same, when, in reality, they’re not. YouTube has been programmed to keep children clicking and watching because of what they see. So, generally, it is more harmful.

Can I Reduce My Child’s Screen Time?

Yes, you can! You can reduce your children’s screen time by taking control and by setting rules up when it comes to screen time.

Final Verdict

As parents, we just want the best for our children. And prolonged watching in front of screens may not have effects during the first few years, but, long-term they’re extremely detrimental.

The dangers of too much screen time for kids are crucial and vital to their overall development. 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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