Mobile devices and your child: How much is too much?

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Is too much screen time a bad thing for kids? Our partners from EduMatters.sg share their views on this topic...

screen time for kids

Screen time for kids: How much is too much, really?

Computers, smartphones, tablets, portable gaming consoles and E-book readers have become cheap and accessible.

I have two phones, my wife has one. We have work laptops, a home desktop, an iPad and a Windows Surface tablet. That’s 9 devices between the both of us. Look around and you should easily find 3 to 8 devices in your house.

This results in our children coming into contact with IT devices at an early age. They are either introduced to one, or they observe us using one.

How do I know? My 15-month old boy holds the handphone to his ear and talks into it. He also insists on sitting beside mummy when she is working, using a Netbook that is not switched on.

Developmental Issues

screen time for kids

Screen time for kids: My little one ‘busy’ with an idle Netbook, while Mummy is busy typing away!

Most parents introduce their children to IT devices with good intentions. I started introducing the Phonic Song to my son because a colleague mentioned how well her niece was learning from it. I cannot sing as well as the video and neither am I as animated as the cartoon characters, hence I am thankful for such a resource. It absolutely captivates my little one and he tries to pronounce the phonics after awhile.

But is gadget time harmful for kids? Many researchers do not want to take a stand. This might be due to inconclusive data, or that the IT industry is too lucrative to be challenged. But having taught in a secondary school, I have been able to draw consistent correlations between the learning ability of my students, and the amount of time they are exposed to technology.

screen time for kids

Will excessive screen time for kids lead to developmental issues?

Students who are accustomed to information at the speed of the Internet get bored when a teacher is teaching the class. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were surfing for academic knowledge but as parents, but we know they are not. Students who are fascinated with videos and animation, will find their teacher boring, not colourful enough, or simply not moving fast enough. Those who are adept at social media may neglect their physical friends around them in favour of a digital one. Digital communication allows one to interact at their own chosen pace while physical friends requires social interaction skills.

Research has shown that early exposure to technologies (smart phones, iPads, Internet) can cause developmental problems in a child’s brain including cognitive delays, impaired learning ability and a tendency to throw tantrums. More children are also being diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) than ever before.

While there is no direct evidence to prove that technology is causing the problems, the correlation might be too strong for parents to ignore.

Find out what you can do to limit ‘screen time’ for your kids…

Lead by example

screen time for kids

Put aside your gadgets, and spent some time bonding and interacting with your kids instead.

When in the presence of our children, put aside our devices and increase the amount of face-to-face interactions. By interacting with an adult, a child can hone conversation skills, social etiquette and pick up on facial and non-verbal cues. There is currently no mobile app on the market that can teach these to a child.

Schedule Purposeful Usage

There are instances where it is better to use smart devices to teach a child than good old fashion coaching (Refer to Phonics Coaching above). Parents will need to schedule the use of IT devices for their children.

The American Academy of Paediatrics and the Canadian Society of Paediatrics states that infants aged 0-2 years should have zero exposure to technology, 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day. The rest of the time should be filled with non-IT related activities.

Please use the above as a rough guide. After all, you know your kids best.

Allow them to be bored without IT

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Got bored kids? Introduce them to the world of role-playing instead…they’re bound to have so much fun!

Do not schedule those timings to coincide with meal times! It is common to see parents using tablets to keep their fidgety children well-behaved during meal times.

Children need time to be bored. With so many devices at home, children are in danger of being over-stimulated and unable to cope with boredom, leading to short attention spans and a lot of fidgeting in classrooms.

Children should have “down time” where they are left to entertain themselves without resorting to IT devices. Come up with activities with them such as building Lego models, playing board games with siblings or making a trip to the good old-fashioned playground.

While advancements in technology continues at a rapid pace, children’s bodies are still the same. We should not be trading our children’s physical exertion for digital stimulation.

How much time do your kids spend on mobile devices? Share with us by commenting below!

Article written by John Low from EduMatters