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Finding the balance: screen time vs off screen time

‘Screen addiction is causing toddlers to lose delicate co-ordination skills such as those needed to tie their shoelaces, new research suggests. A study of 2,400 children found that more screen time was linked to lower scores in “milestone tests” of co-ordination, as well as communication, problem-solving and social skills.’

(Source: Daily Telegraph, 28/01/2019).

There have been some interesting reports about technology, and its impact on children and young people, in recent times.

Some – like the latest guidance from the Chief Medical Officer, urging parents to ban smartphones from the meal table and from bedrooms at night – are far from ground-breaking, being rooted in common sense and echoing the advice that we’ve been dispensing here for many years.

This isn’t to deride, for such instruction is important to underline and adults need as much assistance as possible in order to clear the hurdles of modern parenting.

But another report – the one quoted above – is far more startling.

This one, outlined in The Telegraph and based upon research conducted in Canada, presents findings that are sure to shock parents who have, perhaps, never considered the impact that excessive screen time can have on young children.

The impact such as that described above.

Or that time spent staring at a screen at ages two and three can have a negative effect upon development that manifests in dramatic fashion further down the line.

Or that invaluable opportunities to practice physical and intellectual skills are being lost.

Or that – according to researchers – upon starting school, one in four children demonstrate some degree of deficient or delayed development in language, communication, motor skills and ‘socio-emotional health’.

To be quite clear here, we’re not saying that children should not be allowed screen time, or that gadgets and devices should be banned altogether.

But to echo the guidance from the Chief Medical Officer, common sense is crucial. Finding the balance. Setting limits (and sticking to them). Mixing it up. Everything in moderation.

To quote Dr Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, ‘Parents should actively encourage their children to engage in a range of activities which promote their child’s development and give them as much face-to-face time as possible. Parents should also be aware of how much time they are spending on their screens in front of their children.’

This last part is crucial, because children learn from observing adults and as we’ve discussed in previous posts on our blog, it’s important for us to set an example.

Because as the points outlined above highlight, this isn’t about being the parenting police or trying to shame and deride.

Because this is crucial to child development. Because this matters.

Because, to quote Dr Dubicka once more, ‘This is the first study to show that increased use of screen time in very young children can be associated with slower development. These results add important weight to existing concerns that too much screen time can prevent children from having the best start in life, by potentially reducing important opportunities for social interactions, physical activity and other experiences necessary for development.’

So how much screen time should young children be allowed?

It’s difficult to be prescriptive or to attach a number, so we’ll reiterate our earlier advice:

Use common sense. Find the balance. Set limits (and stick to them). Mix it up.

Indoors. Outdoors. Online and off.

Everything in moderation. Because this matters.

Got a question about screen time or like to discuss associated developmental issues?

You can always contact us here.

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