Worried about Your Kids’ Screen Time? Know What the Studies Say

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In an ideal world, parents have an amazing work-life balance that they can play with their children anytime they want to. At the end of the day, they can enjoy a nice bubble bath or Netflix and chill until the wee hours of the morning.

But Americans often work more hours than employees in other countries. In a 2016 time-use survey, US employees spend almost 1,800 hours in a year doing work-related activities. Japan, which is notorious for working late, was surprisingly below the list at 1,719 hours.

It isn’t surprising then that parents often rely on gadgets to keep their kids busy or entertained. In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revealed that children as young as 6 months old are already using mobile phones.

Moms and dads, though, are also worried. Are they putting their children in harm’s way?

There’s an Alternative

Before we get into the details, parents need to know there are alternatives. Some event rentals, for example, can already lease play equipment like bouncing houses. If you have a big yard, you can get one and use it for as long as you like.

Bouncing houses are fun and even healthy for the little ones. Jumping, like in a trampoline, can actually stimulate the lymphatic system to help the body get rid of toxins. It also exercises their body, particularly their legs, and overall keeps them physically and mentally active.

What Does Science Say?

However, on days when kids cannot go out and you need to keep them busy with mobile devices, the following studies may help ease your mind:

1. The AAP Doesn’t Ban Mobile Devices Outright

One of the primary sources of anxiety among parents with kids using mobile devices is the AAP guidelines. In fact, a 2015 study by the organization showed that parents are aware of the possible dangers of excessive screen time.

Contrary to what most parents think, the AAP doesn’t prevent children from using smartphones and tablets completely. Toddlers between 2 and 5 years old can spend an hour a day in front of the screen. The older ones may use their gadgets for about 2 hours.

The organization only strongly discourages any mobile device use for kids below 2 years old. However, those who are from 18 to 24 months can join in a video call.

Granted, most surveys show that kids spend way more time than what the guidelines say. In one data, several dedicate at least 7 hours a day watching movies or playing games. Screen time also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as most participated in online learning.

For this reason, the Mayo Clinic shares some tips. One example is to identify tech-free times and zones. For instance, they can use their mobile devices anywhere except in the bedroom. No one can touch their gadgets during mealtimes and homework.

2. Mobile Devices Don’t Necessarily Reduce Traditional Shared Family Time

In 2019, the University of Warwick was one of the first to measure the impact of mobile devices on shared family time. They found out that from 2000 to 2015, a period when more people are using these gadgets, alone-time together increased.

Alone-time together refers to the duration where both parents and children are in the same location, but the kids say they are alone. In 2000, the family was in the same area for 347 minutes per day. However, 95 minutes of that was alone time.

Fifteen years later, the alone-time together went up to 136 minutes. However, the study also said that families are spending more time together at home. In the same period, they were in the same location for 32 minutes more per day.

Moreover, the average time they spent together doing traditional activities like watching movies or eating hardly changed.

kids on mobile devices

3. Children May Learn Better from Apps

The manner in which kids learn successfully can vary. Some are visual, while others need more stimuli. Those who fit the latter description may benefit from more interaction.

In a 2018 study by the Society for Research in Child Development, Heather Kirkorian, the lead author, revealed that older preschoolers seemed to find learning more difficult when exposed to non-interactive media like television or videos.

Interactive apps, like the ones parents can download on mobile devices, may be a better option as it demands more cognitive skills from them and keeps them engaged.

The bottom line is this, parents: using mobile devices at a young age doesn’t have to be necessarily evil. To a certain extent, it can be beneficial for them. The goal, though, is to expose them to the right apps and content at the right time.

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