Our Kids Are Spending 91 Days per Year in Front of Screens: The Consequences Are Staggering

A critical look at the effects of excessive screen time in childhood, and steps to mitigate the negative impacts on our children.
Amelia Protiva
5 min read

Screens are everywhere today. They’re playing at the gas pump, at school, in the supermarket, and at home, making managing our children’s screen time feel like an uphill battle. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend an average of 4-6 hours daily on screens. These numbers were calculated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has likely only increased overall screen exposure for children.

This adds up to a staggering 91 full days in a year.

As parents, it’s challenging to be intentional about our children’s screen usage while juggling the demands of work and family life. But by guiding our kids toward healthy technology habits, we're setting them up for a well-adjusted, healthy future.

Understanding the Negative Impact of Screen Time

Unmanaged screen time can expose children to various risks, including exposure to violence, sexual content, negative stereotypes, substance use, and cyberbullying, and has been strongly linked with ADHD.

It's essential to acknowledge and recognize these risks to effectively regulate screen usage. The physical negative impacts of unrestricted screen usage can include:

Disrupted Sleep

Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can interfere with children’s sleep patterns, leading to insufficient and poor-quality sleep.

Academic Under-Performance

Higher screen time is linked to lower grades, reduced academic achievement, and diminished learning outcomes.

Reading and Cognitive Delays

Excessive time spent on screens can detract from reading, physical play, and social interactions, essential for their developing literacy and cognitive skills.

Impaired Social and Emotional Development

Increased screen time can reduce the time children spend with friends and family, affecting their social skills and emotional bonds.

Decreased Physical Health

More screen time typically means less physical activity, contributing to weight problems and related health issues.

Reduced Mental Health

Technology is made to overstimulate our brains, triggering our pleasure centers through dopamine release, serving as a mood enhancer but potentially diminishing enjoyment in non-tech activities with excessive use. This sensory overload can lead to reduced mental health, anxiety, depression and poor self-image.

With significant challenges stacked against us, here are a few practical steps to help you manage your child’s screen time effectively and find balance.

Prioritize Open Communication

Intentionally engage your children in conversations about their online activities to understand their interests and guide them toward positive content, minimizing exposure to harmful material.

Establish Screen-Free Times

Set regular screen-free times (during meals and family activities are excellent opportunities for this) to encourage offline time focused on playing outside, reading, or engaging in hobbies.

Use Parental Controls

Most devices and apps offer parental controls that allow you to monitor and limit your child's screen time and access to certain content, which can be effective in preventing exposure to inappropriate information and reducing overall screen dependency.

Make Ample Space for Alternative Activities

Promote and join in screen-free activities like physical exercise, board games, creative arts, and outdoor adventures to support your child's physical health and social development.

Educate on Media Literacy

Teach your children to critically analyze the content they consume by teaching them about advertising strategies, distinguishing between real and fictional content, and understanding the implications of their digital footprint.

Set Up a Screen Time Schedule

Create a consistent daily or weekly schedule that incorporates a balanced mix of screen time and other activities, including regular breaks from screens, to promote a healthy balance in your child's routine.

Be Mindful of Background Media

Reduce the amount of background television or other media that might distract children from engaging in more creative activities.

We know purposeful screen time isn’t easy.

Supervising your child's screen time alongside other activities takes continuous effort and adaptability. It's much simpler to allow unrestricted access, especially when you're overstimulated as a parent. It's normal to feel overwhelmed at times, but creating a regular, balanced schedule with a variety of activities, preset parental controls, and regular breaks can help ease that pressure. Your dedication to intentionality is vital for your child's well-being. We see, acknowledge, and applaud your efforts to find balance.

Understanding the consequences of increasing screen time for children is one of the primary reasons we designed Littlebird to be screen-free.

Let the kids be kids. Littlebird is a screen-free, distraction-free wearable device that tracks your child's location, heart rate, activity, and sleep. It’s designed to track at the speed of family life, providing peace of mind for parents without adding additional screen time for kids.

Managing screen time is a vital part of modern parenting, and will likely continue to be a struggle throughout our lifetime. By incorporating some straightforward strategies and staying consistent, you can help your children develop healthy habits and resilience around technology.

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