What excessive screen time does to kids and how to correct it

What excessive screen time does to kids and how to correct it


No more pencils, no more books. These days school is all Zoom lectures and never-ending screens. When the bell finally does dismiss students from their monitors, many simply head to the next web browser, game console or social media page instead of the next room.

Therein lies the issue.

Screen time limits vary from region to region, but by and large, researchers like American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP’s) and Canada’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines have generally recommended no more than two daily hours of screen time.

Yet according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the average 8-12 year old banks four to six hours online each day. For teens it’s a whopping nine!

Combined with an additional seven-hour school day, it’s no wonder excessive screen use is causing some serious mental, physical and emotional health concerns. But once you know what to look for, you can encourage a more mindful approach.

Growing up in a connected world

Distance learning may have necessitated more screen time, but the sooner kids learn to curb their device usage and electronic media consumption, the better off they’ll be in the long-term. As they progress in their academic and future careers, technology will become increasingly important. Now’s the time to cultivate a healthy relationship with it, one that balances on and offline activities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation? To focus less on limiting screen time and more on encouraging good sleep, plentiful social time and lots of physical activity. In other words, screens shouldn’t take their place. In fact, the more time kids spend with others, even if some of that time involves screens, the better. That is unless it’s during meals or bedtime. Those should remain media-free.

These guidelines pertain to parents and caregivers, too. Spending some quality time sans screens should be modeled and prioritized.

The strain of remote learning

Researchers are disturbed by the impact unregulated screen time appears to be having on developing young brains. From eyesight concerns and sleep disorders to mental health issues and hindered social skills, there’s a host of troubling consequences associated with making screens the center of our days.

  • Reading and language difficulties: One National Institutes of Health study following 10,000 children since the year 2018 revealed lower language and thinking test scores for those with more than two hours of daily screen time. While those who reported more than seven hours showed a thinning of the brain’s cortex, which is responsible for critical thinking and reasoning.
  • Physical health concerns: Increased screen time often has an inverse impact on physical activity. Stationary students have huge increases in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and the often deadly metabolic syndrome.
  • Emotional vulnerability and dysregulation: Oversaturation of electronic media and digital communication is a likely component of the sharp rise in common mental health issues like anxiety, depression and isolation youth are experiencing.
  • Sleep disruptions: Children are out of their anxious about the pandemic, routine, sedentary and stuck to the screen, all of which can lead to sleeping problems. The blue light emitted from screens has also been shown to disrupt our circadian rhythms.
  • Eyesight issues: Thanks to eye ailments like myopia and shortsightedness that have been linked to screen time, “more children aged 6 to 8 – maybe twice as many as last year – are in need of glasses to achieve their best visual acuity,” according to The Guardian.

Ways to create the right balance

So what can caregivers and educators do to help students balance the digital world with the real one? A lot, actually.

  1. Encourage students to take a five-minute break from their computers and devices every hour.
  2. Make distance learning as interactive as possible with break out groups and discussions.
  3. Promote on-screen socialization with friends, peers, teachers and family using video conferencing instead of passive screen activities like watching videos on social media.
  4. Set alarms for physical activity, water breaks and time outdoors like the school day used to have.
  5. Reinforce boundaries around screen time and give positive reinforcement when online learning tasks are challenging.
  6. Schedule after school activities and athletic practices via video conferencing.
  7. Stay firm that mealtime is a device-free zone and don’t use screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  8. Keep phones in a different room while sleeping.
  9. Design diverse lessons that are more project-based or group focused.
  10. Don’t forget about pen and paper! Students should still be reading printed materials and textbooks whenever possible to get them off their screens.

Without technology, learning during the pandemic would have all but cased. Still, we must prioritize human connection, not just the ability to keep connected on screen, if we want to keep our students in balance.


Content created and provided by ONEAFFINITI.