While digital devices have become commonplace during family time in most homes, studies show that screen-free activities have a positive impact on children’s development and health in a wide range of areas, including social skills, physical exercise, sleep, and academic performance.
Research has found that nearly a quarter of parents struggle to get their children to “unplug” and take part in activities away from television, phone, and computer screens. When asked which behaviour they found most difficult to control in their children, parents said they struggled to limit technology-based activity (23%) more than getting them to eat healthily (19%), go to bed on time (18%) or do their homework (10%).
The benefits of screen-free learning
Reducing time with electronic devices gives families an opportunity to spend more time together and improve communication through face-to-face interaction. It also encourages children to read, play outside, and get exercise. A 2014 study found that parental monitoring of children's media use led to improved sleep, decreased body mass index, and better grades.
How much screen time for children?
For a lot of parents, screen time has become an easy way of facilitating “me-time”. However, letting your children use devices too much could result in less “me-time” for the parents in the long-run. This is because children who rely on screens too much are less likely to be learning how to direct their own play, as well as having limited experience with boredom. This can also make them more prone to tantrums if screens are taken away.
So, how much screen time should you allow? The simple answer is not that much. For example, experts suggest that babies and toddlers be kept away from screens altogether. Children between the ages of two and five should have no more than an hour of screen time per day, whereas school-age children should have no more than two hours.
The Benefits of Screen Free Learning