Disclaimer: This post might offend some parents. Screen time and kids is a very sensitive topic. If you want the betterment of your kids then please do read this post even if it offends you.
“He/she loves to watch Peppa pig while eating. He/she finishes his entire meal while watching.”
“I can work peacefully if he/she is watching tab.”
“Screen time is necessary for a child’s development.”
If you as a parent are using these and many such excuses to allow too much screen time to your kid then you are damaging his development. You are preventing him from becoming a better human being. Period.
I know that sounds harsh. Eyes are the windows to see the world and too much screen time is capable of tinting (or closing) those windows. Let’s see what are the side effects of excessive screen time in kids.
Side Effects Of Extra Screen Time
Another disclaimer: I don’t have any intention of scaring you with these facts. I just want to reiterate the facts that you may be knowing and still ignoring because your kid doesn’t trouble you when he is in front of the screen
Some of these are not directly related to the eyes. It is important to start to acknowledge the facts that you already know. Here are the side effects of screen time
- Poor Eyesight: This is very obvious. The blue light from the screen is known to put stress on the retina. Though permanent damage (blindness) is not likely with the extra screen time, it surely hampers the capability of eyes. When kids are watching the screen, they tend to blink less. As a result, the eyes don’t get moisturized frequently. This can cause headaches, blurry vision, fatigue, and irritation.
- Irregular Sleep: Kids lose track of time while watching the screen. Many parents use TV to wind down before sleeping. The light from TV or phone/tab before sleeping is bad for eyes even for adults. This hampers the quality of sleep. Most of the kids need to get up early for school. Their sleep is not only irregular but also less. As a result, they can’t focus on their studies.
- Violence and Depression: I don’t have to tell you what lack of sleep is capable of. Kids with excessive screen time tend to become violent and/or depressed.
- Obesity: Motor skills get developed in the early years of 0-5, however too much screen time makes kids sit in one place for hours. Thus, eliminating the playtime which is essential in developing motor skills. Nowadays kids not only have thick glasses on their eyes but most of them are obese too.
- Reduced Bonding With Parents: This is the side effect that nobody thinks about. Face to face interaction is essential in emotional bonding. Excessive screen time reduces conversations.
Should I Cut Off The Screen Time
No. Don’t panic. Screen time is essential too. It helps grandparents stay in touch with their grandkids through video chatting. It is a source of education nowadays. There are many games, apps, and channels that can help in the development of kids.
You just need to use this screen time effectively. Preview the programs that kids are watching. Sensor the age-specific media. Whenever possible, do watch it with them and discuss the learning after watching.
Remember that the screen time is not bad, excessive screen time is bad.
How To Reduce Screen Time
It is very important that you limit the screen time in kids. You may be a little lenient if they don’t study well but you have to be pretty firm when it comes to screen time.
Here are a few tips in limiting the screen time.
- Fix The Total Screen Time in 24 hrs: My son and I have agreed upon 2 hrs of screen time every day. It includes tab and screen together. If you have not decided this time earlier then don’t force it on your kids. Explain to them the side effects of excessive screen time and then decide by mutual discussion. You may have to bargain this time with your kids 🙂
- Decide The Maximum Slot: It is important that they don’t get to use that total screen time together. The eyes must get some rest. My son puts a timer of 30 mins, then he plays with his toys or does something else for another half an hr before he is allowed to watch again. This way, the eyes won’t be strained a lot.
- Create Rules About No Screen Time: It is important to have zero screen time at certain times. Many parents let their kids watch TV or tab while eating because otherwise, kids don’t eat at all. That’s a strict no-no. In my house, no screen time while eating and one hr before sleeping. No screen time before sleeping helps in getting quality sleep.
- Limit Your Own Screen Time: You cannot tell kids to limit their screen time if you can’t limit your own. I am not talking about the work-related screen time. If you are always on Whatsapp, Netflix or browsing on your phone then I am sorry, you don’t have a right to limit the screen time of your kids. Limit your own screen time, it is good for your own eyes too 🙂
- Slash Screen Time As A Part Of Punishment: My son and I have agreed to slash the screen time if he makes mistakes. If he makes any mistake then he forfeits the screen time the next day. First of all, he gets limited screen time so he becomes extra cautious about making any mistakes. Though I don’t implement it strictly for petty mistakes done by him 🙂
- Create a Daily Routine: It is important to set a daily routine. My son does karate, painting and dance 5 days a week (each activity 2 or 3 times per week). It takes 2 hrs of his time. He is supposed to play outdoors at least for 2-3 hrs. That makes about 5 hrs no screen time. 10 hrs sleep, 6 hrs school, 1 hr studies and 4-5 hrs of outdoor activities like playing, cycling or just talking to his friends (offline). He has hardly any time left for screen time. I am planning to do this till he is 14-15 years old at least. I am sure you too can fix a schedule like this for your kid.
- Face To Face Time Is Important: It is important for kids to bond with parents and vice versa. Limit your screen time and spend that with your kid. Solve puzzles or just chat with each other. May be pick up an activity to do together. Trust me, kids will love you more if you do that.
As a parent, please take this very seriously. The damage done by the excessive screen time is irreparable as on today. Many parents (including the educated ones) chose to ignore the excessive screen time. Please don’t do that. If you have just become a parent then setting the rules will be easy. If you have preschoolers and grade-schoolers at home who are enjoying excessive screen time, then you have a big task at hand. Breaking this habit will not be an easy task. Don’t implement all of these methods at once. Big bang approach won’t work here. Go step by step and slow. Put conscious efforts towards reducing the screen time.
I would like to know what other methods you have been implementing to limit your child’s screen time in the comments 🙂