Screen time is defined as the amount of time spent using a device with a screen such as a smartphone, computer, television, or video game console. The concept is under significant debate and research with related concepts in digital media use and mental health.
Whilst children with technology has many positive uses in our lives, overuse or inappropriate exposure directly impacts child development as well as their mental and physical health. But, what are the common myths about children spending time with screens, and how do they align with research done in this area?
Here is our take on this subject:
Myth 1: Screen time for infants and toddlers under two has some benefits
Contrary to some beliefs, children under two do not benefit from screen time; they learn best through live, face-to-face interactions with caregivers, not screens. Because children this young can’t relate what they see on the screen to what they see in real-life, they aren’t learning any new social or language skills during screen time. By minimising screen time, more time can be spent interacting with your child, which is how they learn best.
Myth 2: Overuse of screen time has no long-term impact on a child’s development
Screen time has the potential to be habit-forming. Early overuse of screen time is linked to poorer communication skills, problem-solving abilities and social interactions over time. Prioritising back-and-forth interactions with your child during everyday activities is the best way to develop his social and language skills.
Myth 3: Background TV has no impact on my child
For children younger than five, high exposure to background TV has been found to negatively affect aspects of development, including language skills and attention span. It can also distract children from play and interactions with caregivers. By reducing background TV, you and your child can spend more time noticing and responding to each other, which is essential in creating a quality back-and-forth interaction.
Myth 4: Children over two learn best from watching good-quality, educational programs on their own
Screen time can be a positive learning experience for older pre-schoolers, especially when they watch with an engaged adult. Co-viewing enhances learning by allowing an adult to explain concepts. When screen time becomes a time for interaction and conversation, adults can take what children are watching, and make connections between what is seen on the screen with what is experienced in real life.
Children watching TV on their own whilst you do the housework or have some quality time on your own is definitely a negative.
Myth 5: There is no relationship between the amount of television children watch and their behaviour
Children’s ability to be calm and alert can actually be negatively impacted by too much television. Self-regulation is a child’s ability to be calm and alert enough to learn new things, take part in activities, interact with others, and recover from stressful situations.
Children exposed to excessive television (more than two hours per day) were found to have more self-regulation difficulties, especially if they already had behavioural challenges. Finding ways to respond to your child, including when they are less regulated, will lead to more long-term benefits.
Some of the research referenced in this article are:
American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Communications and Media. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5).
Barr, R. (2010). Transfer of learning between 2D and 3D sources during infancy: Informing theory and practice. Developmental Review, 30(2), 128–54.
Klein-Radukic, S. & Zmyj, N. (2016). The relation between contingency preference and imitation in 6-8-month-old infants. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 40(2), 173–80.
Lin, L.Y., Cherng, R.J., Chen, Y.J. & Yang, H.M. (2015). Effects of television exposure on developmental skills among young children. Infant Behavioral Development, 38, 20–6.
Moser, A., Zimmermann, L., Dickerson, K., Grenell, A., Barr, R. & Gerhardstein, P. (2015). They can interact, but can they learn? Toddlers’ transfer learning from touchscreens and television. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 137, 137–155.
Radesky, J.S., Silverstein, M., Zuckerman, B. & Christakis, D.A. (2014). Infant self-regulation and early childhood media exposure. Pediatrics, 133(5).
The Canadian Paediatric Society. (2017). Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world. Paediatric Child Health, 22(8), 461-468.
This page was last updated on Thursday, December 19, 2019.