While the quality of screen time is an important factor for parents to consider, the amount of screen time is also noteworthy because it usually links with Internet Addiction, Exposure to Harmful Content and Cyber Aggression.
Excessive time spent on screens also subtracts from time spent on other real life development such as physical activities and face-to-face social interaction. If excessive screen time escalates and develops into a gradual loss of interest in non-screen pursuits in teenage years, it can prove to be much harder to reverse.
How much screen time is too much? One good ‘test’ for balance is whether the child struggles when they are asked to stay away from computer games or any particular activity for a period of time:
- Do they become restless or irritable?
- Do they think about that activity even when not doing it?
- Do they neglect basic responsibilities in life such as eating and bathing?
- Does their schoolwork suffer because of the time spent on these activities?
If some of these symptoms apply for mobile devices, online activities and video games, parents should consider helping the child to diversify early by pursuing other interests. Replacing 4 to 6 hours of daily digital entertainment may look daunting, however it is possible and always worthwhile.
Among today’s primary school children, many of them started playing games and watching videos from pre-school days. Data from EU Kids Online shows that about 30% children own a game console before they enter primary school. Similarly close to 10% have their own mobile phone.
Our research in Singapore on a sample of 445 children shows an average of about 30 to 45hrs per week for upper primary students. This works out to between 4 to 6hrs daily. This study also found a strongly correlation between screen time and increased a) Internet addiction, b) violent video game exposure, c) access to pornography and d) online aggression.
It is important to help children get off to a good start in life by balancing development in both real life and in the digital world.
- Start with planning ahead for the upcoming weekend
- Plan a full day of outdoor fun and excursions without mobile devices
- Sign up for a music, craft or sports activity according to your child’s talent
- Go for a round island MRT ride to explore all the different corners of Singapore
What do you do with your children? In our previous parenting workshops, we covered many more practical ideas for parents to manage the use of devices and cyber wellness for their children. Register your interest here to be informed of our next parents’ workshop when we launch the next dates!
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