What Too Much Screen Time Means for Kidsby Elizabeth MacDonald
Once upon a time, I had a baby – a single baby. I also thought I would do everything perfect. I vowed to never let the TV babysit my child; hell, I vowed she wouldn’t watch TV until after 2 years old. Then I became pregnant with baby #2, 3, 4, and 5...
We have ‘Smart’ TV’s, iPads, Game Station, iPhones, and countless other technologically advanced pieces of crap in our home - especially after the holidays. They are babysitters, educational tools, road trip companions, boredom busters… the list goes on. My current 3 year old can swipe a screen in embarrassing speed. I have noticed the crumbling effect these devices have on our daily lives though. Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to lock them away – a mother needs a sanity break each day, and these ‘things’ provide just that. Right?
If any type of blue light device is turned on, my boys become emotional crazy people. Not right away, and not as they are blinded by the light that is being displayed in front of them, but once the device has been shut off or physically pried from their fingertips. That is the moment it all hits the fan.
Our day goes downhill quickly. It’s as if these screens switch something in the brain, causing my boys (and occasionally my girls) to lose themselves. They are cranky, easily disgruntled, quick to argue or complain, extremely emotional, and all around different then before being exposed to the screens. I know I am not alone on this one.
While the screens make for a great babysitter,
The Science of Blue Light Screens
Did you know that American children are exposed to hours (up to SEVEN!) of screen time a day? (Video games, iPads, TV's - even in the background, computers, phones, smart watches to play on, etc)
For decades the American Academy of Pediatrics has pushed for children to have less screen time, but the hours have not decreased. There is a large problem with children being able to recognize true (real life) human emotions when they spend time in front of a screen.
It has been reported that blue light screen time is directly linked to children being chronically irritable, depressed, prone to rages, and constantly agitated and exhausted. While these kids are easily diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and are offered medication, it could be directly linked to their time in front of screens – TV’s, Pads, and phones.
In 2018, a new study raised questions about whether screen time is affecting the structure of children’s brains. Results distinctly showed brain changes and kids who spent more than two hours a day on screens scored lower on language and thinking tests.
What can you do?Harvard has produced a ‘cheat sheet’ if you will; a pamphlet that gives you all the tools to help limit your children’s screen time. There are great ideas in it; a few that I will be utilizing:
- Music on in the background from morning until night.
- Technology will be used for guided meditation and exercise programs for the kids.
- There will never be a TV in any of our kids' bedrooms.
- Parental controls for the iPads to automatically shut it down after a period of time.
- TV Timer Bob for the TV’s sounds like a great investment.
- Limit screens to an hour or less throughout the day, if possible
Give yourself grace, too. In the trenches of parenthood, we are allowed to give in sometimes.