I'm a child development expert – how much screen time is GOOD for kids & how to get them off devices without tantrums | The Sun

IT'S one of the most commonly asked questions as a parent – how much is too much when it comes to screen time?

And not only that, but when children are on their screens, what should they be watching/playing?


Addressing the first part of the question, child development expert Dr Jacqueline Harding explained that defining an acceptable screen time quota is easier said than done.

"The whole issue of trying to pin down how much screen time is OK for children developmentally is rather like trying to mend a puncture when there are three holes or playing one of those games where you knock something into place – feel a sense of satisfaction and others pop up," she said.

"There are tonnes of factors to consider in the slippery domain of screen time and children."

She gave the example of whether or not to include homework research, watching a film with family or having a FaceTime call with an elderly relative in the screen time limit.

Read more Parenting stories

Parenting expert reveals the reason you should NEVER make your children share

I’m a child sleep expert – my easy way to help with bedtime separation anxiety

"You see what I mean – one size does not fit all," she smiled.

However, Jacqueline did add that if you are particularly keen for a measure of time, then one hour of screen time should be considered more than enough for a child under six years of age.

You should also consider the advantages and disadvantages of screen time for each age range, she suggested, putting together a list of benefits and potential disadvantages.

Most read in Fabulous

SUMMER SOLVED

I'm plus size & ordered a Shein swimwear haul – here’s how it looked

JUMP TO IT

Four women show how halterneck jumpsuit looks on sizes 10 to 18

ON THE FENCE

We spent £9K renovating our fence – our neighbours then turned it 180 degrees

BRIDE & SEEK

I’m a bride – my wedding dress saved the day but people think it's crazy

0-3 years

Potential benefits

  • "Whilst it’s well established that little ones need face to face human interaction (that is how they are biologically wired) we don’t have to go overboard and ban everything of a digital nature!" Jacqueline explained. "A little TV time or use of an app which speaks to the child in their language (using humour they totally ‘get’) with lively characters (being kind and generous to each other – perhaps with a few gentle introductions to numbers and letters and shapes etc) is… just delightful."
  • "If the show or app is watched/played together and it brings about a good laugh and true human connection – then all the better. Some TV shows and apps are brilliantly made with child development advisors helping them shape up – they simply do not involve endless monotonous viewing. They invite little ones to make a response. Having a good laugh together is great for the developing child."
  • Electronic musical instruments can help with auditory development
  • Light up resources with buttons can aid problem solving skills

Possible disadvantages

  • "The child becomes mesmerised by the quick camera pans and fast shots and fails to really absorb any intended developmental benefits (remember they are only little and everything is so new – there are enormous opportunities for hands on experiences in the real world – little ones are explorers and need to be out and about," Jacqueline said.
  • Delayed speech
  • Passive viewing – in other words, does not invite an individual mind or body response
  • Attention deficit – some researchers highlight possible challenges in this area
  • Missing out on all other types of play such as role play and construction play etc
  • Compromised concentration skills
  • The application becomes a babysitter and they miss out on human companionship
  • Sensory overload – over stimulation – bright lights etc.

4-8 years

Potential benefits

  • Positive interaction with the device – physically and intellectually
  • Fun participation
  • "The journey begins towards media literacy – necessary for all our futures," Jacqueline said. "This is called ‘media literacy’: when it comes to the relationship between text and images – guess what? Images are dominating, so it is important that children begin to learn how to decipher images as well as learning about text
  • Beginning to learn how to limit your own screen time (yes, it can start this early – it’s called self-regulation)

Possible disadvantages

  • Reading actual physical books and the need for media literacy can get out of balance
  • "Without a role model and clear guidance – screen time will envelope them and they lose all track of time and in the worse-case scenario – can start to disengage with the real world," she warned.
  • The line between fact and fantasy can easily become blurred. At this age, they do not have the cognitive ability to disentangle these complexities
  • Being unsafe online and stumbling across material that can be memorable and harmful

8-12 years

Potential benefits

  • Understanding how the screen works – just as we understand how a book works
  • Learning how to excavate for brilliant educational content for school
  • Learning how to build digital skills with others 
  • Moving between the real world and virtual world through play can be stimulating
  • Some video games encourage team building and collaboration skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Games specially built for children with special needs can be beneficial

Possible disadvantages

  • "The biological push towards peers at this stage and the need for independence needs careful monitoring," Jacqueline continued. "Children begin to feel deeply about what others think of them (social media is not always known for raising self-esteem) and need to be shown how media works, otherwise they too can start to be critical and sceptical and weigh things up."
  • Being bullied online
  • Mimicking aggression shown to others in games (highly competitive games have been identified as causing most aggression)
  • Digital eye strain

13 years +

Potential benefits

  • Preparation for possible future employment
  • Being digitally literate
  • Happy social interaction (often of a type that the older generation does not fully understand!)
  • Knowing how to keep yourself safe online
  • Feeling part of a social group online that reflects their ‘tribe’ can help children feel included in society

Possible disadvantages

  • Tackling fake news – not possessing the essential knowledge and skills needed to identify reliable sources
  • Low self-esteem
  • Neglecting sleep
  • Neglecting other areas of their lives 
  • Sleep deprivation or interruption of sleep due to screen exposure
  • Feeling completely disconnected from real life (in 2019, The World Health Organisation recognised excessive gaming as a mental health disorder)
  • Isolation
  • Being bullied online

In addition to how much screen time you allow your child to have, you are also responsible for deciding what to allow them to play.

Over 10 years ago, Jacqueline was asked to create a tool to help determine whether or not media is a positive source of play.

"In short, the more immersive a game or show is – the more attention we need to pay to how it effects the child – basic rule of thumb: are they happier and bright-eyed because of the play or less happy, confused and/or miserable?" she explained.

"Of course, in a more research-driven environment, there are other measures considered, but over the years parents have found this simple tool a way to begin to consider if a play activity, book, TV show, game is really lighting up their brain."

Jacqueline's simplified tool below is designed for children under nine years of age.

Positive reactions

  • Pointing to screen
  • Chatting to characters on screen
  • Smiling and laughing at event on screen
  • Wanting to tell parent/carer/another child about what they are watching or have seen

Negative reactions

  • Lethargic
  • No emotion on face
  • No desire to share anything with parent or other children about what they are seeing or have seen or are doing
  • Looking around the room – disengaged and totally blank

Once you have decided what your child is allowed to play, and for how long, there are some things you can try to help you out if you struggle to limit their screen time without prompting a tantrum.

Let the rules take the heat

"Agree rules together – even three year olds can contribute to an agreement – for example… I can spend ten minutes watching this TV show and then I stop," Jacqueline explained.

"The older the child, the more sophisticated you might agree upon rules – that’s fine as long as everyone understands them."

Ensure crystal clarity

Display rules in written form for older children and in picture form for the younger ones.

Timer taming

"A timer can ring out when for example, a video game must stop," Jacquline said.

"Then stick to the rules yourself – no extra time – it’s a slippery slope!"

Countdown

"Give warning times – for example, when I have finished putting the washing away, or you have two more minutes – that can all help."

Outdoors and indoors

"The balance between the two spaces (if at all possible) should be weighted towards outdoor play," she added.

"This is purely for your sanity and their wellbeing."

Chatting is cool

One of the most important things to do is to "always keep channels of communication open".

"Your child needs to be able to tell you anything and everything," Jacqueline explained.

"That way you stay in the know and can step in if they encounter anything they don’t understand."

Read More on The Sun

France scraps ALL Covid restrictions for Brits in summer holiday boost

Mums go wild for Mrs Hinch’s latest range for Tesco with prices from £12

Dr Jacqueline Harding MA Cert Ed SFHEA set up Tomorrow’s Child following a successful career as BBC education editor; government consultant; head teacher, and author of best selling books. She is the founder of TCTV, an online TV channel, & senior lecturer at Middlesex University; founder of the Bright Start Institute of Maternal and Child Health and Director of Parentchannel.tv.  Internationally, she is known as a leading digital media child development expert and has an extensive background of advising programme makers.

In 2018, Jacqueline launched TCTV (Tomorrow's Child TV) as a free online resource at Middlesex University. It addresses the digital needs of parents of children aged from birth to 18 years with interviews featuring parents, children and experts such as, Childnet and NSPCC.

    Source: Read Full Article