In today’s digital age, it’s no surprise that children spend a significant amount of their time in front of screens. According to a recent study, children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend an average of 4 hours per day on recreational screen time. That’s approximately 1460 hours per year, or the equivalent of 60 full days. But what exactly are kids doing during all of that screen time and how can you help your child achieve more balance?
One of the most popular screen time activities among children is social media. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat have become a staple for kids to connect with friends, share content, and participate in the latest trends. It’s not uncommon for children to spend hours scrolling through their feeds, watching videos, and creating their own content. However, it’s important to keep in mind that excessive use of social media can have negative effects on children’s mental health and well-being.
Whether it’s on a console, computer, or mobile device, kids are spending a significant amount of their screen time playing games. The average child aged 5 to 8 spends 19 minutes per day playing computer or console games and 21 minutes playing mobile games, while children aged 8 to 12 spend 55 minutes per day playing computer or console games and 34 minutes playing mobile games. From first-person shooters to puzzle games to online multiplayer games, which have become particularly popular among children. Excessive gaming is a real concern and can lead to addiction and a lack of physical activity.
The number of children watching online videos has dramatically increased since 2019. In fact in 2022, the YouTube Kids mobile app amassed 106 million downloads worldwide, up from the 99 million downloads of the previous year. From educational content to entertainment, there’s a wide variety of videos available for kids to watch. Some children may even choose to watch videos as a way to learn new skills or hobbies, such as drawing, cooking, or coding. Even still, it’s important for parents to continue to monitor the content their children are watching and ensure it’s age-appropriate and educational where possible.
Another common activity that children engage in is using apps. There are countless apps available for children, including educational apps, games, and entertainment apps. Some apps are designed to help children learn new skills. Other apps are more interactive and provide children with a creative outlet for expression. Among some of the top grossing apps in Australia in 2022 were Disney+, TikTok, Candy Crush Saga, Coin Master, Roblox, Gardenscapes and Pokemon GO.
While children are spending a significant amount of time on recreational screen time, it’s important to note that not all of it is necessarily negative. Social media and gaming can provide opportunities for children to connect with friends and learn new skills. Online videos can be an educational tool that provides children with access to a wealth of information. And apps can be a fun and interactive way for children to learn, explore new interests and become more independent.
So, what can parents do to ensure their children are using screen time in a healthy and productive way?
– Set Limits
One solution is to set limits on the amount of time children spend on screens each day. You can use parental controls to set time limits on apps and devices and monitor your children’s usage. Additionally, parents can encourage children to engage in other non-digital activities, such as sports, music, or reading.
– Monitor Content
Another solution is to monitor the content of your child’s screen time. Parents can use parental controls to block inappropriate content and monitor their children’s social media activity. You may also want to check the rating of a video game or app before allowing your child to download it. There are various rating systems depending on the country. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) provides a list of content descriptors that explain why a game or app received a certain rating, such as nudity, blood, strong language, use of alcohol, and use of drugs. Meanwhile, companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung have their own rating systems for apps that are based on age.
– Add Value to Existing Screen Time
Finding ways to increase the quality of your child’s screen time is a great way to bring more balance to your child’s screen time.
1Question is a great example of this, an app that allows children to earn screen time in recreational apps (e.g. games, social media, streaming) by answering educational questions. This way, children can continue to enjoy their recreational screen time while also learning. Additionally, parents can choose from an array of topics best suited to their child and monitor their learning progress through the app. Merging educational time with screen time helps to reduce screen time arguments and give children more ownership of their screen time. Parents can also have the peace of mind that their child is engaging in productive and educational screen time while also having time to enjoy recreational apps.
– Lead by Example
Finally, parents can lead by example and model healthy screen time habits themselves. Children are more likely to follow healthy habits if they see their parents doing the same. Additionally, by having open and honest conversations with your child about their screen time, you can help them to develop their own healthy habits and make informed decisions about how they use technology.