Limits on screen time are a hot topic in parent communities. There are many different ideas about how much screen time children should have and how that time should be used. After all, children can learn a lot from their various screens, from the television to the computer or laptop, to a mobile device like a tablet or phone. All of these formats offer educational games and programs, for instance, and there’s a good argument to be made that children will need to use these devices for studying, research, and work throughout their lives, so familiarizing themselves is a good thing. However, there are equally good reasons why children should be using all of this tech in moderation. Here are a few important reasons why screen time should come with limits and boundaries.
Improve Sleeping Habits
Screens — especially screens kept in your child’s room — can interfere with their ability to get a good night’s sleep. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, if something like a tablet or laptop is powered on — even if your child isn’t using it, the light from the device can disturb your child’s sleep. Blue light is particularly disruptive.
What’s more, the temptation to use the devices while the lights are out and everyone else is asleep may be too great for your child to resist. Even if your child can’t stay awake all night, they can definitely lose sleep while viewing distracting games or websites. Children who don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk for behavior problems, academic problems, and health problems. Limiting their screen time by removing screens from the bedroom can protect them from these effects.
Improve Academic Performance
There will come a time when your child will need a computer or internet-connected device to complete their homework and school projects. By middle or high school, many teachers do expect your child to type papers and perform research on the internet. But until your child reaches the age where they’re required to use screens to finish school work, it can be smart to restrict them until homework is finished.
The internet encourages and enables multi-tasking — it’s just too easy to play a game in one window while working in another, or use a chat app at the same time you’re using a word processing program. However, this type of multitasking only divides your child’s attention and distracts them from learning. It can result in lower grades and affect their attention span. Keeping homework time internet-free for as long as you can should help train your child to focus on the task at hand, so they’re not as easily distracted later when they do have to use the internet.
Avoid Risky Behavior
The internet is full of wonderful things — information, educational content, harmless fun, and easy ways to contact friends and family. However, the internet is also full of dangers — there is inappropriate and harmful content as well as predatory strangers that know how to spot and exploit a child with unfettered internet access.
There are many ways to protect your children from at least some of the dangers of the internet, from parental blocks to monitoring software to open and honest communication about spotting and avoiding danger online. But the simple truth is that the more time your child spends online, the more likely they are to be exposed to harmful content or engage in risky behavior — this is especially true if they have a lot of unsupervised time online. Limiting screen time and imposing reasonable boundaries on your child’s ability to go online unsupervised can help prevent your child from encountering some of the more harmful elements of the internet.
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