As televisions and mobile devices become an increasing part of everyday life for many of us, parents are no doubt left wondering what’s the right amount of screen time for kids.

Whether it’s playing their favourite computer game, using an app on your mobile phone or watching cartoons on TV, how much is too much?

While screen time guidelines seem to vary depending on which source you’re looking at, new research seems to suggest that it’s not so much how long children are spending on these devices, it’s the nature of what they’re looking at.

A study published in December 2017 by the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University did in fact find that there’s no correlation between limiting device use and a child’s wellbeing. The findings suggested that the broader family context, such as how parents limit screen time and whether or not they’re exploring the digital world with their children, is more important than raw screen time. You can read the report in detail by following this link: (http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2017-12-14-children%E2%80%99s-screen-time-guidelines-too-restrictive-according-new-research)

A separate study carried out by the University of Michigan (https://news.umich.edu/kids-and-screen-time-signs-your-child-might-be-addicted/) backs up these findings. It found that how children use these devices is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction – even over how much time they’re spending on them.

The authors did however point out that you may want to limit screen time if it’s leading to poor behaviour, withdrawal, deception or loss of interest in activities, family or social life.

Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist who specialises in the concept of ‘digital nutrition’ also argues that the reasoning behind why children are using these devices is more important than how long they’re spending on them. She commented:

“It’s not just about whether you consume any potential digital junk foods, but also your relationship to technology and the role it plays in your family life. We know that using screens to soothe or pacify kids sets up some concerning patterns of relying on devices to calm or distract a child (or teen, or adult) from their experience of unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions – so we want to avoid using screens to placate tantrums, just like we want to avoid eating ‘treats’ to calm emotional storms.”

While discussions about screen time for kids usually tends to veer towards the negative, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the evidence-based benefits of using digital and social media include early learning, exposure to new ideas and knowledge, and increased opportunities for social contact and support.

Brewer continued:

“It’s important that there’s balance in the online and offline worlds and in leisure and learning but what that looks like for different kids at different ages and in different families is hard to ‘prescribe’. Research shows that not having access to the digital world has a negative impact on children – so it’s about finding the right amount of screen time for kids with a holistic approach.”

At Tigers Day Nurseries, each child is treated as an individual and given the opportunity to explore, experiment and learn at their own pace. If you have concerns about screen time guidelines, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.