Have you just given your kid a tablet/smartphone? You should plan out ‘screen time’

Published Jan 8, 2018, 2:20 pm IST
Updated Jan 8, 2018, 2:20 pm IST
Report indicates that the screen time for kids is increasing day by day on smaller devices.
Parents have to ensure a fine balance between screen time and natural outdoor activities.
 Parents have to ensure a fine balance between screen time and natural outdoor activities.

If you are a parent, then keeping your kids off mobile device is a tough task these days. Children spend hours and hours on their tablets or smartphones, hooked on to games, social media or browsing YouTube until the battery dies down. While sensible minds around the world will suggest parents impose restrictions or keep them away from smart devices until they get matured, some consider these devices as a nanny to keep the kids occupied so that the rest of the family can do their work peacefully.

However, what does the world think about this issue? Is on-screen time for kids a topic so serious that it requires an effective solution? We skim through some of the research studies and activities undertaken around the world in this context.


Despite being harmful, modern tech brings opportunities to kids

The most obvious connection people make between kids and smart devices are getting exposed to the wrong kind of information, which is true. UNICEF’s research states that the Internet is full of stuff that can dump harmful information related to child pornography, sex trafficking, child abuse and more. They are also exposed to stuff, particularly through social media, that embed depression. If you remember, the viral yet deadly online game, called Blue Whale, claimed so many young lives and the victims’ parents had no clue about the thing in order to stop their children while the time was right.

However, despite all the negatives of the digital world, there’s a lot of stuff that kids have benefit from. A major example of this could be the smart classrooms of today where learning is enriched with interactive informative content available on the web. Kids, who possess personal devices, also gain a lot of knowledge about the world form several apps and services, if used in a positive manner. In fact, the UNICEF report suggests that children in some parts of the world have become civilised due to the use of modern gadgets.

Children are spending more time on smaller screens than before

A report by Common Sense Media states that 98 per cent of households with children under the age of eight now have access to a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone, whether they are rich or poor. Children are spending up to two and a half hours a day on an average on devices. While this figure has been consistent for some years now, the change has come in the distribution — more of it is happening on smaller devices, particularly on smartphones than tablets or computers. The report claims up to 48 minutes a day of smartphone exposure in 2017.

No phones under the age of eight

That’s what Brooke Shannon, a mother of three from Austin, Texas has pledged for her daughters. Not only her, but several other parents have put up a pledge online by the name of ‘Wait Until 8th’. This group of parents feels that children in this age group don’t have the ability to deal with tricky social situations on social media. While this may allow for kids to see the world in a way they are supposed to do, banning them from interacting with the digital world could also prove negative. After all, there has to be a balance between everything.

“Screen time only keeps a child in bad mood happy”

A study released in November interviewed parents of children aged between 4 to 11 years came out with some interesting answers when asked about ‘screen-time’ problems. Consider the following statements:

  • It is hard for my child to stop using screen media
  • When my child has had a bad day, screen media seems to be the only thing that helps him/her feel better
  • My child's screen media use causes problems for the family
  • The amount of time my child wants to use screen media keeps increasing
  • My child sneaks using screen media

Now, if these statements are to be true in any sense, then it is evident that most of the people had explained negative issues, with few of them terming screen time as a necessary evil to keep things peaceful.

Screen time doesn’t necessarily affect a kid’s abilities

More often, we start taking screen time as a negative thing for children. However, a lot of factors are responsible for degrading a child’s abilities rather than screen-time alone. A study by researchers at University of Oxford and Cardiff University in the UK proved that by interviewing around 20,000 parents of young children aged 2 to 5. They found that a moderately high screen time resulted in positive moods across children whereas various other factors led to negative behaviour patterns in children. As said always, parents and caretakers need to maintain a fine balance between exposure to the digital world and maintaining a positive life.

(With inputs from National Public Radio Inc)