Giant screen TV’s, computers, smart phones, gaming consoles and tablets are just some of the many technologies we have today.

We live in an age where technology is everywhere and is an integral part of our daily life from morning to night … this is the environment my son and your kids were born into.

So, I decided to look at the research on technology and kids to answer the question:

How much technology is safe and beneficial for kids and how is too much and dangerous?

After a little hunt around on the Mouths of Mums website, I found other mums were worried about their kids using technology too… here are some of their issues, concerns and questions:

Technology use in kids- evolutionary or not?

I am a parent and I am torn. My 8 month old already knows how to use my iPhone (we don’t let her play with it but have left it around and she’s grabbed it). Part of me feels this is an evolutionary aspect however another part is very concerned. What is your view on kids and technology?

Too much technology?

I find that whenever my kids (or my partner for that matter) have any spare time, they all want to sit in front of either the computer, the iPods or the TV. Do other mums worry about this? What have other mums done to mix things up a bit more?

Like you I am a worried mum, so I thought a good place to start was the official recommendations for screen times.

Official recommendations:

Recommendations from Australia, New Zealand and the US are similar.

  • NO screen time for children aged between 0-2 years. That’s right 0 hours of screen time – no tablet, DVD, smart phone, computer or TV in the background or foreground.
  • Less than 1 hour per day screen time for children 2-5 years old.
  • Between 1-2 hour maximum out of school hours per day screen time for children aged between 5-18 years.

Furthermore there are strong recommendations for no technology in bedrooms as this can have the largest negative impact on children, and that these hours are the ‘upper limits’. It is better to have less than the maximum of two hours.

Why the limitations? What’s the harm?

While there are certainly studies that show that children can experience educational and other benefits by interacting with technology under the right conditions, this article focuses on the research that looks at the harm of excessive use of technology outside of school use.

Something that surprised me was that most of the research on screen time focuses on television and gaming. So, the key researchers looking at screen time caution that we don’t really know the full extent of the potential short-term and long term harm of these other forms of technology on our children’s physical, psychological, social and emotional development until more research is conducted over extended periods of time. So, until the research catches up with modern life, to be safe, it’s best to stay well within the screen time guidelines as these were developed with the known harms in mind.

Research shows that children who have excessive use of technology are more likely to experience:

  • Language and social delays in children under 2 years of age.
  • Less physical activity and greater chance of obesity and other associated illnesses.
  • Greater consumption of snack foods high in sugar/salt/fat.
  • Fewer social interactions.
  • Less reading of books and reduced engagement in creative, imaginative and other play essential for learning and development.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Addiction to adrenaline, instant rewards and stimulation (making everything else ‘boring’).
  • Attention, focus and concentration issues (technology can be a great distracter).
  • Aggressive behaviors (with violent games).

Frightening, right? And the list goes on….These conditions are not something any parent wants their children to experience.

So what can you do?

I suggest you take some time to look at your family, get more information and then work out a strategy.

Strategies for reducing screen time

Here are some ideas recommended in the research and I have tried in our home. I have also added some articles from the Mouths of Mums website – so you have some more great resources to draw on.

  • Educate your children about the harms of screen time so hopefully you won’t have such a fight on your hands. Here’s one example of how we managed it in our home. We spent lots of time explaining to Cameron that TV switches his brain off, giving him experiences of when he was actively doing and passively watching (children’s brains and adults too, become passive when watching TV). He now understands why there is no TV in the morning before school because having a passive brain isn’t a great way to go to school and learn. Educating about harms of technology may not be as easy with your older children – teens and tweens – especially if they are already addicted to screen time. Here is an article that might help with communicating with your teens so as to get the best result – the right amount of screen time and still keep a great relationship.
  • Conduct a screen time audit as a family. List every piece of technology you own and ask everyone to track their daily use. Talk about the results as a family – you might be surprised at how many hours per day you’re on screens – when you add it together. Just 2 weeks ago, after I did this research, I was concerned that we were all spending a bit too much time on screens in our house and, as an experiment, we packed the TV away for 2 weeks. Wow! What a difference it has made – and we don’t even watch that much TV. What I have seen is that we all seem calmer and more relaxed without the background noise. We talk more, we’ve played games (indoors and out) more often with the extra time, read more books and we even started a new big family project. We are building Lego scenes to make our very own first stop motion movie. Stay tuned! Once it’s done I’ll put it up on Mouths of Mums! I’m not sure I want the TV back – it’s been so good. Even my husband suggested perhaps we should only watch TV on the weekends when we bring it back. And Cameron has only mentioned he wished we had the TV once and my husband mentioned it once too when the world cup started. Why not try a screen free day on the weekend and have a great day out together.
  • Set limits: pick specific programs, days and times for screens. In our home, Cameron is allowed to play games for short periods of time on the weekend. The games are no-where to be seen during the week ( we hide them so he doesn’t see them or even ask for them). Dinner time is screen free time for everyone. Being a good role model is so important. We use family dinner time to talk and share about the highlights of our day and any challenges we might be having.We allow our son to watch TV after school for up to 1 hour a day with shows that are educational, interactive and engaging. Where possible we are nearby or watching with him. I have to say Master Chef and other cooking shows are family favourites and Cameron learns so much! Just last night he said he wanted to make his salad using half a red capsicum as the bowl. He gobbled it up and exclaimed “mum the capsicum is the hero of the dish”! He’s just 6! So cute right? Watching TV with your kids is a way the research says you can mitigate some of the many harms of TV viewing for children. Here is an article that explains how you can turn TV time into learning time.
  • Take all technology out of the bedroom and turn TV’s and other background noise off. Excessive screen time has been shown to harm a child’s ability to focus and keep their attention on tasks and it can make them hyper vigilant. No-one wants over stimulated kids. This can affect children’s nervous system and can result in anxiety, difficulties sleeping and challenges with maintaining a feeling of calm. This article provides some great ideas to help children calm.
  • Finally, in this article there are some more ideas for making technology work effectively and safely in your home.

As with most things in life, use of technology is all about balance and knowing what and how much screen time is right for your family and your child depending on their age and development. I sincerely hope this post has helped you to understand more about the recommendations, potential harms and has given you ideas for reducing screen time in your home, to support you and your children to live long, healthy and happy lives with and without technology!

  • I recently went to a talk from a child psychologist who specialises in technology and kids. She recommended only 2 hours of screen time per day. I sometimes try and get around this by encouraging my child to do “educational” apps/ pc activities.


    • My understanding is that 2 hours is the UPPER limit and we want to keep it well under that if possible – regardless of whether it is educational or play

    Reply

  • my kids are adept at ipads by the age of 2, I don’t think it hurts as long as you are protecting their eye sight by limiting their time

    Reply

  • I love this authors articles and I certainly found this one amazing. It is such a great dilemma in today’s society of technology


    • Thank you so much for your positive feedback on my articles – I really appreciate it. I am struggling on how to respond to your question on biggest parenting concern as I can’t hit reply. Feel free to contact me via my website and I can answer it directly http://www.drrosina.com

    Reply

  • Think there is some really good advice here. Some aspects would just be too hard to consistently enforce, eg. how to you have no screen time for a child aged 0-2 when there are siblings around? Pretty much impossible! Agree with limiting screen time, just not getting rid of it all the time. Thanks for the article – provides plenty to think about.


    • Yes, you are right – much harder to navigate it when there are older siblings… requires more creativity and it more difficult – you make a good point!!!

    Reply

  • Very interesting

    Reply

  • Very interesting read, I found the limits that are accepted in Aus is far less than I ever thought.

    Reply

  • It definitely is hard these days I’m lucky my son is obsessed with sports & reading so I can always get him to do something else but I’m very strict as I know I spend too much time on facebook & watching TV. There is no TV in the morning & only occasionally in the afternoon & only short periods on the iPad.


    • Sounds like you have a wonderful balance between reading, sports and technology. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  • A useful and informative topic

    Reply

  • thank you there is so much more to worry about these days


    • You are right, there are more things to consider nowadays as a parent, but with knowledge and understanding we can overcome any obstacles we might encounter on the road to keeping our kids safe and happy

    Reply

  • I was beyond stunned when I read an article recently where some mums were talking about having mobile phones and ipads/tablets for their babies and toddlers (some not even 12 months old). One mum said “Oh, it’s a great way to keep them occupied, and I can have a bit of time where I don’t have to watch them like a hawk”. Totally unacceptable, and I don’t apologize for my opinion either. Start them off at such a young age and they’re soon reliant on technology, and it’s a hell of a hard habit to break.


    • I think many mums don’t know of the dangers of giving young children technology. That is why I want to share the message as far and wide as I can so everyone can make informed choices that support the whole family. If we know better we can do better – that’s how it works for me
      Thanks for your comments and care for families.

    Reply

  • Best wishes to your son in getting the job of his dreams

    Reply

  • My son graduated from Uni with a BA in IT he is madly applying, for jobs etc at the moment and just about all his waking time is spent on the computer. He is either apply for jobs, playing games or talking on Skype.

    Reply

  • It depends on the kids too- my son seems to be addicted to games and so we regulate him heavily, but my daughter isn’t fussed. We don’t tend to watch much TV it is a treat for us. Although when we go to someone else’s house who don’t turn theirs off, mine kids seem to gravitate towards it like they’ve never seen it before (because they really haven’t seen any of those shows before!)


    • Yes it is true, children are different so being sensitive to individual needs is important. Thanks for the comments

    Reply

  • Its really hard to get the kids away from any sort of technology, its in their face all the time – from school computers to homework – they should be encouraged to look things up in books, not go on line for the answer – and as for kids having a tv in their rooms, that should be a no-no – there is no interaction there, and the parents should be aware of what they are watching and how much.


    • Sound advice thank.you. reading books with and to my son are some of the most special times we have together

    Reply

  • Well my children watched a lot more tv than 1 hour a day. But they are now 6 and 8 and have great imaginations, can play without tv and gadgets, Love getting dirty outside and playing sports and are doing very well at school and socially. I guess the so called experts can’t put every child in the same hole.


    • You’re absolutely right. It sounds like you have created an environment where your kids get to watch tv and do other activities that take them outside and nurture their creativity. It is definitely about balance but it’s important for parents to know that excessive technology has the potential to cause potential harm. Thanks for your comments

    Reply

Post a comment
Like Facebook page

LIKE MoM on Facebook

Please enter your comment below
Would you like to include a photo?

No picture uploaded yet
Please wait to see your image preview here before hitting the submit button.

Your MoM account

Lost your password?

Enter your email and a password below to post your comment and join MoM:

You May Like

Loading…

Looks like this may be blocked by you browser or content filtering.

↥ Back to top

Thanks For Your Star Rating!

Would you like to add a written rating or just a star rating?

Write A Rating Just A Star Rating
Join