While you may have already heard that letting your children engage in too much screen time can affect their attention span and language skills, early exposure to digital screens can impact their ability to effectively regulate emotions as well. As a parent, monitoring screen time can be difficult, but understanding the effects can help you choose what’s best for your child.
How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
Data from The Common Sense Media statistics reveal that children under eight are participating in an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time each day. This is more than double the recommended limit of one hour oper day by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, the AAP recommends that children under 18 months are not exposed to digital screens at all.
What Is the Effect of Too Much Screen Time?
Spending too much time staring at a screen can be detrimental for people of all ages, including adults. It can directly alter the brain’s structure, causing shrinkage of its striatum, grey matter, and frontal lobe and even contributing to depression and decreased cognitive functioning. In young children, there are many factors at play that affect emotion regulation:
- Sensory overload: Children have more sensitive sensory systems than adults, which can lead to moments of emotional dysregulation, such as temper tantrums. Kids with autism or ADHD are even more prone to sensory overload.
- Language development: Overuse of screens can slow down the language acquisition process for young children and impair their ability to interpret facial expressions and feel empathy towards others. Struggles with language development and speech have a negative impact on emotional growth and regulation.
- Sleep deprivation: Too much blue light exposure and overstimulation caused by screen time, especially in the later hours of the day, can make it more difficult for children to sleep at night, which can contribute to behavioral issues during the day.
- Lack of physical exercise: Being active and participating in at least an hour of exercise a day is important for children’s physical, mental, and emotional development. Spending too much time stationary indoors while watching TV or using a device can lead to children getting little to no physical activity.
How Can Parents Monitor Screen Time?
Understanding how screen time affects your child helps guide you in setting boundaries for your children as they interact with digital media and incorporate healthier activities that aid in emotion regulation, such as implementing a morning routine to reduce stress or replacing TV before bed with nighttime yoga for kids.
Make an effort to interact with your child often, reading books together, playing outside, or cooking meals together. When you do allow screen time, it’s better if you participate in the activity with them, whether watching a movie as a family or playing a learning game with them.
Being a parent is tough, especially in an evolving world where indulging in digital media has become the norm. Fortunately, you’re not alone in your journey to help your children live healthy lives. Seek out the right health resources and products to benefit your kids’ wellness.