Can Screen Time Be Beneficial for Kids?

For those of us who are caregivers for kids, it has been a significant issue as to how much screen time is healthy. Screen time can be addicting. Social media often creates difficult messaging that can leave students in significant crisis. Other messaging can also have major influence in the lives of our children and teenagers.

Screen time is on the rise worldwide, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, which reviewed the screen habits of about 30,000 children, aged 3-18, between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 5, 2022. The study revealed that since the pandemic, screen time among children has gone up 52 percent globally.

A longitudinal study published in 2020 looked at cognitive and emotional functioning in children over time, between age 4 and 8, measured against their daily screen time. The study found excessive screen time led to emotional dysregulation and negatively affected mathematics and literacy in school-age students.

In 2021, Denise Scairpon published a dissertation on screen time among 4- and 5-year-old children and its effect on their social and emotional development as well as their sleep. The most significant finding: Excessive use of digital devices may cause children to suffer from irreversible damage to their developing brains and limit their ability for school success.

Most research indicates that excessive screen time can be damaging especially to young viewers.  Passive screen exposure like television has negative impact to the physical health of kids and is not considered to be desirable for a number of reasons.

What is beneficial for screen time in educational programming? Researchers found that educational screen time provides the most benefit, showing positive effects on children’s persistence and educational outcomes while also having no significant impact on health. Interactive screen time, which includes time spent playing video games, showed positive educational outcomes but was associated with poorer health.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend screen time limits by age. Both organizations recommend that children age 6 through 10 use no more than 1.5 hours of total screen time each day. The organizations also note that the maximum recommended screen time for everyone, independent of age, is two hours.

I recognize that screen time is easy to access and can create entertainment and even some peace in our homes and schools. However, there is a significant risk of negative physical and mental impact if there are excesses in how screen time is utilized. We have so much access but can even become addicted to our screens. Without boundaries and controls, screen time can become life-dominating. Bringing some boundaries to our screen use is important for the health of our kids.

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