As a parent, one may ask: How much screen time is too much screen time? How can I balance play time and technology time?
Despite common belief, not all screen time is damaging for children, as there can be developmental benefits for children who interact with technology to a certain degree. However, as is the same with adults, balance is key, and there are several practices that you can employ to help create a healthy technology balance for your child.
According to an article in Psychology Today, permanent damage occurs to the still-developing brains of young children who are hooked on tablets and smartphones. In the time between birth and age three, the brain develops quickly and is especially susceptible to its external environment. This critical period fosters the permanent foundation upon which all later functions develop. Long periods of exposure to the large number of stimuli that tablets and smartphones produce can create strain on young brains attempting to process other actions concurrently. As a result, young children who spend vast amounts of time in front of a screen may not develop cognitive function at the rate of those who participate in interactive and hands-on learning.
Likewise, an unhealthy balance of screen time can result in a child having extreme difficulty in social interaction. In the same article, Psychology Today mentions that the brain’s frontal lobe, which develops during the critical stage of early childhood, is the area responsible for social comprehension. The frontal lobe allows us to empathize, interpret nonverbal cues, facial expressions and tone of voice. If a young child is spending their time in front a screen instead of practicing empathetic skills and understanding social situations, these abilities may be dulled.
Screen time can be used as a means to enhance skills and opportunities for creativity, when used in moderation. A study conducted by Adam Chie-Ming Oei and Michael Donald Patterson at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore suggests that improvements in higher-level cognitive functions such as task switching, reasoning and memory were associated with engagement in a strategic video game.
Contrary to popular belief, digital games can actually enhance physical activity and engagement. “Exergaming” consists of virtual and digital games that require players to perform physical activities in conjunction with the game on the screen. These types of games can help to improve sensory motor learning and cognitive performance.
Tips for a Healthy Balance
- Monitor overall usage: Set a time limit on screen use and be sure that you’re paying attention to the material that your child is watching. Consider implementing parental controls for mobile phones, applications and television channels.
- Stay up to date with technology: Keep up with the latest apps and trends to ensure that you’re current with any issues so you can be prepared to respond proactively rather than reactively.
- Offer alternatives: Often, video games and books have the same theme or characters. Propose that your child try reading a book about their favorite virtual characters, playing a board game related to their favorite show or creating their own game related to their video game of choice.
- Teach and encourage responsibility: Don’t ignore the benefits that technology can offer your child. When the time is right, speak with your child about the lasting consequences of putting inappropriate information into cyberspace, and about responsibility for their actions when using technology. Encourage your child to speak up if they encounter anything inappropriate or odd online.
Developments in technology will continue to have a diverse impact on our younger generations. As such, it’s important that you are aware of the benefits and risks that come with implementing regular technology use into your child’s routine. For more information on creating a healthy balance with technology, contact the child development specialists at Celebree Learning Centers today.