My goodness, as a parent to a teen and a teenager it is difficult to miss how much technology has changed. Since my childhood anyway! Screen time and the use of devices plays a major role in children’s lives.
I have read extensively on the topic of screen time. I was shocked at what I read. I know screen time on various devices has provided significant opportunities for children at home and in school for learning, creativity, entertainment and socialising. However, the amount of screen time is a constant battle in our house.
This is what I found out:
OFCOM (2014) research reported that 65% of children aged between 12 and 15 years of age owned a smartphone; the amount of time 8-11s and 12-15s spend online has more than doubled since 2005 from 4.4 hours a week in 2005 to 11.1 hours in 2015 for 8-11s and from 8 hours to 18.9 for 12-15s; and half of parents of 5-15s with home broadband use time-limiting software to manage their child’s online access.
According to a leading child development expert Chris Rowan, early exposure to technology can disrupt the development of a child’s brain. He also suggests that overuse of screens has the effect of families rarely interacting with each other. I know I can relate to this point!
The impact of rapidly advancing technology on the developing child has also been studied by Dr Aric Sigman , with doctors at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health calling for government health officials to set limits on the amount of time children spend watching screens, advocating for under-threes to be kept away from them altogether.
Speech delay in toddlers has also been linked to the amount of screen time. The research conducted by the University of Toronto (2016) found that the more screen time by a child, the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech.
As if that wasn’t enough, a University of Bristol study which involved more than 1,000 children aged 10 measured the time children spent in front of a screen and found that children who spend longer than two hours a day in front of a computer or TV are more likely to suffer psychological difficulties than other youngsters.
Child Health and Mental Well-being
A research project which follows the lives of around 19,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 2000-2001, suggests that children who have regular bedtimes and limits on screen time are less likely to be obese. Furthermore, a large study (University of Glasgow, 2015) which involved more than 5,000 children who were followed for over two years, found a link between time sitting in front of a screen and an increase in blood pressure rates. It found that children who spent more than two hours a day on screen time over the two years were at increased risk, as were those with low levels of physical activity.
A study of 6,000 children in Germany has found a link between phone dependency to health and behavioural problems, suggesting that 28% of children within Germany are either addicted to their smartphone, or will be soon (2017). The researchers reported that children who are introducted to smartphones can develop health problems including hyperactivity or aggression which can also lead to internet dependency.
Children refusing to put down their smartphones has also led some parents to send their children to what is known as ‘smartphone rehab’. (Independent, 2017) These ‘rehab’ centres have been established in Seattle, offering ‘intensive recovery programmes’ for teenagers who have developed an addiction to their smart phone and other devices.
So, what do you think? Do you have concerns about the amount of time your children spend using screens? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
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