Scrolling through Instagram, watching TV, surfing the web—the uses of technology are endless! But did you know, your screen time as a parent can impact your kids?
In today’s interconnected world, screens have become an integral part of our daily lives, transforming the way we work, communicate, and unwind. While technology undoubtedly brings numerous benefits, using it excessively and without limits can have unintended consequences, especially when parenting. As parents, our screen time habits serve as a powerful model for our children, shaping their relationship with technology and influencing their overall development.
Exploring both potential pitfalls and simple strategies, here’s how to create a healthy digital environment that nurtures our little ones.
Effects of Parental Screen Time on Kids
Because kids are still developing and learning, parents who spend too much time looking at screens can unintentionally impact their kids’ emotional, cognitive, and social growth. From the mesmerizing glow of smartphones to the lure of endless online content, the effects of parental screen time on kids can’t be ignored.
Excessive parent screen time can lead to feelings of neglect or being ignored in children. When parents are constantly engrossed in their screens, children may interpret it as a lack of interest or availability, which can impact their emotional well-being and contribute to feelings of loneliness or frustration.
Attention and Behavior
Research suggests that high levels of parent screen time can negatively affect a child’s attention span and behavior. Children may imitate their parents’ screen-related habits and struggle with regulating their own screen use, leading to difficulties focusing on tasks and decreased impulse control, which can potentially impact their academic performance.
Communication and Social Skills
When parents prioritize screens over face-to-face interactions, it can hinder a child’s development of essential communication and social skills. Children may struggle with effective verbal and non-verbal communication, have difficulty expressing their emotions, or experience challenges in building and maintaining relationships.
Excessive exposure to screens in the presence of parents may impact a child’s cognitive development. It can hinder opportunities for interactive play, creative thinking, problem-solving, and critical reasoning skills that are essential for a child’s intellectual growth.
Parents’ screen use, especially before bedtime, can disrupt a child’s sleep patterns. The blue light emitted by screens and the stimulation from engaging content can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep, resulting in sleep deprivation and its associated consequences, such as difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and decreased academic performance.
Health and Physical Activity
When parents prioritize screens over physical activity or outdoor playtime, it can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle for both parents and children. Lack of exercise and excessive screen time can increase the risk of health issues in children.
What Can I Do To Manage My Screen Time with Kids?
As we’ve seen, there are plenty of reasons to be mindful of screen-time habits and find a healthy balance between digital engagement and family. By setting appropriate limits, actively engaging with our kids, and promoting offline activities, we can stop this digital takeover. Just because we live in a digital age doesn’t mean our kids have to be robots; we can find ways to enjoy screen time and keep our kids happy and healthy.
Here are a few helpful tips to help your family enjoy both screen time and outside fun:
Tip 1: Establish Screen-Free Zones and Times
Designate specific areas or times in your home where screens are off-limits. For example, create screen-free zones during meal times or in bedrooms to encourage face-to-face interaction and quality family time.
Tip 2: Engage in Joint Screen Activities
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through your device, consider engaging in screen activities that involve your child. Watch a movie together, play interactive video games as a family, or explore educational apps that promote learning and discussion.
Tip 3: Set Family Rules and Limits
Establish clear guidelines for screen time in your household. Determine specific daily or weekly limits for both parents and children. Use tools such as parental control apps or device settings to enforce these limits effectively.
Screen Time in the Long Run
As your kids grow and “complete” their development, you might find that some of the rules you’ve set need to be adjusted. Your kids might have to start doing homework online, or they might need to stay in contact with friends who’ve moved away. This is perfectly normal!
In this digital world, the closer you are to being an adult, the more you might need technology to complete daily tasks. And the same goes for your kids. The closer they are to being adults, the more they’ll have to manage their own screen time. The point of making these rules is just to create healthy habits that your kids can use when they become adults. If they’re able to start managing their screen time under your guiding hand, then in the future, keeping a healthy balance between the digital world and real world will be so much easier.
This isn’t like programming a whole computer, so take it slow and don’t worry. Your kids are quick with technology—they’ll catch on!
For more ways to monitor your child’s screen time, read these tips from Dr. Raun Melmed in his article “Screens and Your Children.”
To learn more about the effects of parental screen time on kids, check out this article by BabySparks.
Books to Help Families Manage Screen Time
- Timmy’s Monster Diary
- Parenting for the Digital Age
- The Big Book of Family Games
- The Phone Book
- The Parent Compass
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.