Television, tablets, and computers, oh my! Screens have become a normal part of kids’ everyday lives, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a teenager, I remember getting my first cell phone when I was in middle school. Now, as a therapist, it’s normal to have families with kids in elementary school who are well-versed in technology and use a tablet better than I can.
Technology has become a normal part of everyday life for kids, and that makes many parents uneasy. Parents are often worried about the effect screen time has on kids, and how to effectively manage giving their kids screens without feeling guilty about it. To help parents feel empowered in giving their kids screen time, I’m breaking down the research behind using screen time.
Here’s what we do know about how screen time affects kids (American Psychological Association, 2020):
TV Can Reinforce Key Emotional Skills
Educational television shows, such as Daniel the Tiger and Sesame Street, have been shown to increase emotion recognition and empathy in children.
Screen Time Can Create Tradeoffs
What are children missing out on because of screen time? Are kids forgoing physical activity, sleep, or other healthy activities to spend time watching television? Research has found that this is important to consider when understanding the impact of screen time on kids development.
The Impact on Mental Health Is Complicated
There has been conflicting evidence on how screen time affects mental health. Overall, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that screen time has a negative impact on kids’ mental health and in many cases there are positive correlations.
Screens Affect Different Ages Differently
For really young kids, younger than 2, screen time often isn’t helpful in teaching kids new skills or ideas. For older children, the impact can be beneficial on learning and skill development.
Okay, so if screen time isn’t all bad, what should parents do?
Watch Media with Your Kids
Research has consistently shown that watching television and other media can protect kids from some of the potential downsides of screen time.
Take a Mindful Approach to Screens
Banning screens completely is likely to backfire. Being mindful of how kids are using their time on screens and outside of screens is a more helpful approach.
Set Limits with Your Kids
Negotiate and set limits on how much time you are okay with your child spending on screens. Communicate those limits with your child to avoid disagreements and tantrums later.
Encourage Screens for Social Activities
Interactive video games and social experiences like Camp Supernow are great examples of positive Screen Time that actually reinforces social skills. Camp Supernow provides a live, interactive social outlet for kids that teaches character-building lessons through fun counselor-led adventures. Learn more here.
Screens aren’t going away anytime soon, so all we can do as parents is adapt and learn how to parent kids best in a tech generation. Still need more? Check out the book “Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World” for other ideas on learning how to use technology safely.
Read more from Dr. Carrie Jackson here.
Camp Supernow is a virtual program designed to teach kids ages 5-10 important social and emotional skills and supercharge their development into happy and healthy future grown-ups.
Learn more and sign up for a free trial at campsupernow.com