From watching tv, playing online games, and using mobile phones: electronic devices are consuming our day-to-day lives more than ever before.
As adults, we use our phones like an extension of our own arms – they’re connected to us at all times, and never out of reach. It’s only inevitable that this behaviour would be reflected in our children. Of course, for kids, phones are only part of the equation; tv, gaming consoles and tablets are all used daily in many households.
While not all screen time for kids is unhealthy, it certainly needs to be curbed to healthy levels.
Our guide will answer many of the questions you may have concerning screen time, including:
At this age, the time spent in front of screens in an ideal world should be no more than two hours a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Unfortunately, this is far from the average. School aged children are, outside of the classroom, starting to spend more time in the virtual world than the real one.
Ofcom estimates that children between the ages of 5 and 7 spend four hours a day on screens, which rises to 4.5 hours by ages 8-11, and 6.5 hours for teenagers. None of the children are within the recommended time limits, and it worsens with age. It is increasingly common for children to have their own electronic devices to use, and they tend to own more of them as they get older.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended that children younger than 2 should not have access to screens at all. Very young children can quickly latch on to this form of entertainment, and though it is a convenient babysitter, it is better for their development to interact with humans rather than technology.
This screen time allowance increases to an hour between the ages of 2 and 4, but maxes out at 2 hours for children throughout their school years. The general message is: the less time spent in front of screens, the better.
So we know that too much screen time isn’t good for children – or ourselves, for that matter – but what harmful effects does it actually have?
Keep in mind that not all screen time is negative; it can be educational and enhance social interactions, and even regular entertainment can be healthy when not consumed in excessive amounts.
There are many ways to reduce screen time for children; some are strict, outright bans, others are softer and encouraging. Read on to discover nine easy ways to reduce your child’s screen time.
Research by Ofcom found that the average adult in the UK spent almost 6 hours in front of a screen every day in 2021. Young children imitate their parents in almost everything while under the age of 5, in what celebrated psychologist Albert Bandura described as ‘modelling’.
You want to set a good example at this tender young age, and become a role model to your young child, as they will absorb every one of your habits; healthy or not. It’s important to set a good example to older children as well, who are aware enough to recognise the hypocrisy, and may resent the unfair treatment.
Reducing screen time for yourself will be a difficult adjustment at first, but, as is the case for children, it will be beneficial for your health in the long run – and will help your entire family maintain a healthy relationship with electronic media.
An easy method of reducing screen time is by simply removing the source. Phones take up more than their fair share of the blame for our ever-increasing screen use, and we could all spend less of our time glued to them.
You can make it a family event – if everyone has to put their phones away or into a box for a set amount of time, it is likely to go over better than just taking a child’s phone or device away. The amount of time is entirely up to you; it could be an hour or a whole evening, or even just for dinner.
No phones at the dinner table is also an easy rule to enforce, and encourages the family to spend some quality time together while also reducing screen time.
Instead of heading straight home to sit in front of the tv, after-school clubs provide children with a way to get active, interact with other children and spend more time away from screens.
Premier Education offers an alternative to screens in the form of action-packed after-school clubs that feature a huge range of sports and games, from the classic to the creative, delivered by our highly-trained coaches. We encourage children to build their confidence and leadership skills, make friends and stay physically active; all while having fun.
Your living room may have a tv, but does the kitchen need one? Reducing the number of screens dotted around your home and creating technology-free spaces can help limit the total screen time for your child.
Eliminate background tv noise and ban the use of electronic devices in rooms where you sit and eat; removing technology from spaces like a kitchen or dining room means dinner and breakfast time will be entirely screen-free. If you’re worried about keeping kids occupied, think back to your own childhood, and provide toys and books that you enjoyed just as much as modern technology.
Having a technology-free space is especially important in your child’s bedroom, as it is difficult to monitor their usage when they have gone to bed. The blue light emitted by screens has a negative effect on sleep, and shouldn’t be present in their bedroom.
If you’re concerned that the amount of time your child is spending on screens exceeds what you are aware of, you can install an app to monitor, and often manage and limit, their screen time.
There are several apps available, for both Android and iOS devices, that promise to reduce the media use of children. They will tell you exactly how much time your child is spending on their device – and on what – and many can also cut access to apps once a time limit has been reached. These are a useful tool in reducing the constant use of screens, as well as filtering out inappropriate content.
Kids love video games for a reason – they’re fun, exciting and built to keep your attention. Incorporating gaming into an activity in your garden or living room is a great idea, perfect for peeling uninterested, game-loving kids away from their devices.
Online gaming, while creating some social interaction with their peers, doesn’t compare to in-person social interaction. Bringing games like Minecraft into reality by making building blocks in your garden, or setting FIFA challenges with just a ball and some makeshift goal posts, can transfer the excitement of online games into real life.
In truth, many children will just be happy to be playing games with their parents. While it is particularly exciting for children to see their on screen media reflected in real life, just making the time for playing games with your child will encourage them to put down their digital devices and just have fun.
Sometimes introducing strict screen time rules is the most straightforward way to reduce screen time. Really, this should be a last resort, only used if other, less stringent methods have already failed.
Setting weekly screen limits that align with the 2-hour-a-day recommendation from WHO will ensure your child, and their still developing brains, are protected from the harmful effects of screen use.
Removing their digital devices entirely outside these times will guarantee that their use is not exceeding the weekly time limit. But household rules should apply to everyone; if you set limits for your children, you should stick to them yourself as much as possible to avoid resentment and to lead by example.
This is more than just limiting your child’s screen time; it’s about ensuring it has a positive effect on your child’s development.
Screen time activities aren’t limited to gaming, social media and cat videos; there are apps that help with foreign language development, educational shows that happen to be YouTube videos, the opportunity to enjoy video chatting with family. Technology has afforded us access to incredible tools of communication and unlimited information, but also has many downsides.
The challenge as parents is to make sure that your child reaps the benefits of technology, not the negatives. Placing parental controls on devices to ensure the content they see is age appropriate (and that countless thousands aren’t spent on in-game purchases), installing security to protect their online privacy and monitoring their choice of apps, games and videos is essential for making screen time a positive, educational experience.
Reducing their total screen time to a reasonable level is also a part of ‘healthy usage’, and important for both their physical and mental health.
Without the routine and busy schedule provided by schools during term time, children often look to their digital devices to alleviate boredom in the school holidays. By joining one of Premier Education’s Holiday Camps, they can skip the need for screens; boredom isn’t on the agenda.
Our Holiday Camps give kids the chance to spend time with other children in an active environment that promotes self-confidence, communication and skill-building through a variety of sports, crafts and performing arts. Screens are the furthest things from kids’ minds when running around and having fun; at Premier Education, we make sure our Holiday Camps are active and engaging – physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore.
And, if you refer a friend, both you and the friend get 20% off your Holiday Camp booking.
These are only a handful of options to limit screen time; there are several ways to reduce the amount of time your child is spending on screens. From creating technology-free spaces and role modelling to after-school clubs and Holiday Camps – you can choose a method that works best for you and your family to reduce screen time, and reap the many health benefits of doing so.