Unplugged Parenting: Navigating Screen Time with

Parents are increasingly faced with the question of how much screen time they should allow their Little Ones to have. And lately, there have been more parents who are asking how they can limit the screen time for their children.

Apr 6, 2024
Parents are increasingly faced with the question of how much screen time they should allow their Little Ones to have. And lately, there have been more parents who are asking how they can limit the screen time for their children.

So What is Screen Time?

It is any activity that is done in front of a screen - watching TV, using the iPad/tablets, playing games on the mobile phone and the list goes on. Even digital photography and video-chatting is screen time.

Screen Time Can be GOOD!

  • There are many programmes on Netflix and channels on YouTube that offer interesting and enriching educational content for our Little Ones.
    • Children learn best through repetition. And that is the beauty of these programmes. You can play them repeatedly for your child so that your child can sponge in all the information effectively.
    • A wide array of topics and subjects are available. Your child can truly have a good grasp of languages, numbers and mathematical concepts, music, art and socio-emotional milestones through these programmes.
  • Educational apps are not only increasing in quantity but also in quality.
    • There are apps that teach the key competencies that your Little One needs, such as literacy and numeracy. Some of these apps also allow your Little One to develop his fine motor skills (and subsequently, writing!) by having activities that require tracing and reproducing of prints.
    • Apps that encourage creativity are also aplenty! These apps range from those which are focused on music to those that develop digital drawing/art. The plus point to these apps is that you can e-file your child’s products without any clutter and look back at how your child has progressed seamlessly.
  • Games galore!
    • Children LOVE to play! And what better way to learn is there than while having fun! So while games are seen as FUN to our Little Ones, there is much to gain from playing games.
    • Problem-solving, reacting with speed, hand-eye coordination, honing of determination (in trying to win or reach another level) - these are all skills that our Little Ones develop while playing games.

Why is Screen Time Addictive?

Children LOVE LOVE LOVE screen time because it appeals to many senses of the child! Screen time offers both visual and auditory stimulation. The colours, the sound, the speed in which the screen changes from one scene to another keeps children engaged as they anticipate what is to come. There is much for them to concentrate on - hence their being able to spend prolonged amounts of screen time.
❌ Meaningful Family Moments
When children are constantly kept occupied with screen time activities, they lose time spending with their parents and siblings. Especially during mealtimes, the table becomes quiet and even though the family is sitting together, they are not together in presence. This takes away precious time that the family can spend bonding through conversation. If prolonged, this can lead to family members being distant to one another and a young child growing up without much interaction with the parents.
(Psst… Research has also shown that screen time during meals induces overeating!)
❌ Socially Adept
If a child is constantly on screen time (even when he is outdoors) the child will likely be awkward in settings where interactions and activities with other children or individuals are involved. This opens doors to the child preferring social isolation. When the child is in school, this factor will affect the child negatively as group activities will be stressors to the child. It may also affect his interest and performance in school. Also, as being on screen time diminishes the time that the child has for face-to-face interaction, he may not be able to interpret non-verbal cues well and end up frustrated from not being able to understand what those around him are trying to communicate to him.
❌ Physical Development
Undoubtedly, if a child spends a lot of time on screen time, the child will be sedentary much of the time. This takes away the opportunity for the child to be engaged in other activities that involve physical movement. This will in turn affect the child’s gross motor skills, physical growth and strength. The road to an active and healthy lifestyle will be more difficult to achieve as the child is already habituated to being inactive.
❌ Classroom Setting
As screen activities offer a lot of different stimulation (sounds and fast-changing scenes) to the child, the child may find paying attention in a classroom setting challenging. Reading books will also seem like a mundane task as compared to having screen time. Therefore, a lot of readjustment of expectations is needed for the child before he can find the classroom setting bearable and worth participating in. Parents (and teachers) will need to encourage and help the child regulate to this setting before the child can finally thrive in it.
Ultimately, parents will need to find a balance between screen time, physical activities and social interactions for their child. While screen activities have a lot of benefits, we have to keep in mind the long-term effects that it brings.