Most parents have some concern about how much time their children spend in front of screens.
From devices for the tiniest child, right through all ages, to the lure of adult Games and increasingly appealing technology, the challenge to keep a balance between screen time and other activities is ever present for parents.
Reports like this one from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which originally suggested that all children under two should be banned from using hand held devices because of its harmful impact on their development, fuel real concern.
But as this writer in the Guardian suggests, there is no real evidence based research at this point into the effect screen time has on children and young people and we should be wary of panicking and scaremongering. And certainly not take at face value the idea that technology is harmful without putting it in some kind of context.
Talking to other parents about this issue the same overriding messages become clear. That whatever our children do it should be:
- In balance with lots of other activities, they need variety for their overall development
- Be something that we as parents are aware of and engaged with, whether that’s physically involved or just through discussion, so it can be a more shared experience
- Supported by more active pursuits to counteract the sedentary hours of screen time
- In the context of a healthy, rounded, family lifestyle
- Something that we monitor intelligently, hopefully without too much nagging or rigidity, and learn about ourselves rather than be in conflict with.
The most influential impact on our children’s habits and behaviours is what we do ourselves. So it’s also crucial that we practice what we preach and investigate our own screen time habits and how they impact on our family time.
As well as being entertaining, technology is as vital a part of our children’s development as reading, an essential element of their education, and has provided an unprecedented accessibility to learning. That counts for Games of all sorts too, whatever age the children are.
But there is no doubt that this new aspect of our family life, where life could so easily become more virtual than actual, needs managing like any other part. Parents are managers as much as anything. But managing with common sense, balance, open discussion and respect for everyone’s preferences is a likely to be a better way forward than banning anything. Rigid rules and bans are the least effective because they immediately make the forbidden more appealing.
So perhaps the old adage; ‘everything in moderation’ provides us with a useful benchmark for managing screen time until evidence informs us differently.