Concern for the effect of too much screen time on kids is hardly a new issue. You yourself have probably been a “victim” of your parents keeping you away from that shiny box of joy. The only difference today is that there’s a bunch of boxes, both large and small, at home and away, to worry about. And even if you ignore the tabloid, sensationalistic approach to the subject, you’ll find real, scientifically proven ways that too much screen-time impacts your kids’ mental and physical development.
The song of the Sirens
How many times have you tried to talk to your kids only to find them hypnotized by a piece of silicon and plastic? Pretty often we'd wager. But can you really blame them? The sheer amount of information and content available today makes it pretty easy to get carried away in the technology bubble. Even at Killerspin we love the occasional video game.
Our brains are wired to save mental energy and playing video games, watching TV shows, or swiping through their friends’ snaps requires little of it while keeping them entertained. Just like the sirens in Odyssey with their beautiful song, technology can lure countless inexperienced little sailors to shipwreck on the rocky island of technology misuse. And these are just some of the dangers that await them.
- Becoming a couch potato. Spending 7 hours per day glued to a smartphone, laptop, tablet and video game console is dangerous for people of all generations but it’s the kids who are especially sensitive. They crave physical activity, sunlight and playtime in order to develop as healthy and happy adults. Otherwise, they can face long-term health issues and obesity.
- Brain drain. Several neuroimaging research projects have shown significant negative effects of tech overuse on a young developing brain. This includes gray matter atrophy, compromised white matter integrity and impaired cognitive functioning, among other things. In English: too much screen time at young age can determine success in every area of life, from academic and professional success to quality of relationships and general sense of well-being.
- Loss of real-life social skills. A recent study out of UCLA showed that kids who were deprived of their digital devices for five days got much better at reading other people’s emotions than their peers who continued with their normal screen filled routine. And that’s just five days. Imagine how constant digital interaction affects kids’ communication skills as they grow older.
- Disconnect from family. During the Harvard Grant study, researchers followed 268 Harvard undergraduate men over the course of decades in order to determine which factors contribute to a happy and fulfilled life. They found that lack of quality interaction with family members during childhood correlates with higher levels of anxiety, lower income and increased chances of developing dementia.
Lessen the Dangers of Too Much Screen Time for Kids
So how do you fight this irresistible force? Is imposing restrictions really a good idea? We don’t think so. We believe that the solution lays in transforming your family culture. This requires using a positive, solution focused approach. Ask yourself, what makes your kids put down their tablets and enjoy some good old-fashioned playtime? How can you make it easier for them to do it more often? You need to offer fun and engaging alternatives to digital media.
This isn’t easy. The most important things in life never are. But the memories you create together and laughs you share with the people you care about the most will make all the difference. It will help make their smiles a little bit brighter and their days a little bit lighter every time they think about time with you. And you can’t really put a price on that, can you?