My children use their phones and tablets all the time. Is this normal?
Many parents worry about the time their children spend in front of gadget screens. Toddlers use their phones and tablets to watch cartoons, play games, learn a foreign language with apps, and call grandparents on Skype and WhatsApp. Older kids are into social media, watching various shows and videos on TikTok. There’s also TV, games consoles and e-books.
Much of both adults and childrens lives are linked to the Internet and digital technology, and sometimes it’s hard to know how much time a child can spend in front of a screen. What is harmful to their health and development and what can be beneficial.
All children spend a lot of time in front of screens. Is it dangerous?
Using phones, tablets, computers and other devices is not in itself dangerous. But health problems can occur if certain rules are not followed. Over-reliance on gadgets can cause a range of problems, including developmental delays, obesity, sleep problems, depression or addiction.
If gadgets are constantly present in a child’s life, they don’t understand how to manage their time without these devices. These cases are common.
At what age should I give my child a phone, tablet and other gadgets?
At the earliest from the age of 2. If parents think it is appropriate, fragments of suitable educational programmes for very young children should be shown to the child from this age onwards.
It is important that the programmes are of good quality. These should be watched together with the child. Regular play and creative activities, without the use of phones or tablets, should remain the basis of communication. Children can sometimes communicate with relatives and friends through Skype and other video chats.
But there are many great educational apps for young children.
Yes, there are. But it is important to understand that even the best apps should not replace a child’s parents, grandparents or play with other children. At an early age, it is especially important to communicate a lot with your child, explain things to them and help them learn about the world around them.
Research shows that educational apps help children gain new knowledge, but live people teach children more effectively.
Educational apps are good if they are of good quality and used as a tool, not as a substitute for a teacher. And you should make sure that your child does not spend too much time in front of a screen, otherwise many important skills and qualities can be affected. For example, self-control and the ability to understand other people’s thoughts and emotions.
Do not give children educational apps with too many effects – animations, sounds, images that can be clicked on and “swiped”. Researchers believe that it can be difficult for a child to understand what is happening on the screen.
How much time can children spend in front of the screen?
Make sure that children between the ages of two and five spend no more than an hour a day in front of a screen. But that doesn’t just mean giving your child a phone or tablet. It’s about watching quality children’s programmes together. While watching, you should help your child understand what’s happening on the screen, and try to connect what’s happening in the show to the real world.
Are there cartoons, games or apps to be avoided? Yes, it is important to monitor what your child sees and plays with. Children should not be allowed to watch violent videos or play violent games, all of which can be bad for the psyche. Researchers also consider programmes in which images change too quickly to be harmful.
How much time should a child spend in front of a screen after the age of five? There is no strict time limit. The boundaries should be determined in the family, based on the circumstances. The main thing is to maintain a balance. The phone, tablet, games console and computer should not interfere with real communication with family and friends, study, sleep and what are called “active hobbies”. It is important to remember that addiction occurs much faster in children than in adults!
Why can’t children give up their smartphones?
There may be many reasons. Here we outline the most common ones:
- Habitual. Since childhood, to keep the baby from crying, his hands were occupied with a gadget.
- Like parents. Copying the behaviour of mum and dad is a standard cause of the problem.
- Afraid or not able to communicate. And online is not scary. Communicating there is different, and safer. That’s the way it seems to the kids.
- I don’t know what to do. Time should be structured. If there’s nothing to do, I’ll play.
Mobile phones have more than just disadvantages
Mobile devices offer many conveniences that make life easier for young people and adults. As a result, you can no longer imagine everyday life without them. And they open up completely new possibilities. For example, in how you can express yourself creatively or in terms of communication.
So it’s no surprise that most schoolchildren and teenagers today use their smartphones to share information, primarily with friends and classmates, in individual or group chats. Mobile phones are also widely used for downloading and listening to music. And there are many educational programmes and cartoons for the little ones.
There are also benefits to mobile devices:
- Educational uses: educational games, lessons and tutorials. Many schools are actively promoting the idea of learning with new technologies. This format is interesting for students because the material is presented dynamically and becomes exciting rather than boring.
- Research shows that children who use gadgets are more independent, more likely to help their parents and have a more open and trusting relationship with them, compared to children whose parents forbid the use of mobile devices. Of course, more often such characteristics depend on intrafamilial relationships.
- Fast communication. If a pupil has a phone, he or she can quickly alert parents to emergencies. For example, if he or she has been released from class and needs to be picked up early. Or if your child gets lost, your mobile phone can help them find their parents much quicker.
- Some of the games kids play on their phone or tablet are also good for them. They develop their reaction time and increase their concentration. But parents should always pay attention to the theme and content of the game.
The child is dependent on the phone – what to do?
Of course, completely banning mobile phones will not work, and it is not necessary. It is worth working on the fact that a teenager to use it faithfully. And prevent the development of addiction. And if you notice a problem, try to fix it.
It’s not the gadget itself that’s bad, it’s the total addiction to it or whatever it is. Be it even reading a book on a spree.
The important thing is not to forbid it, but to teach it. The gadget should be at the child’s service, not the other way around.
Rules should be
Paediatricians advise families to develop a set of rules for the use of the internet and electronic devices. And try to follow them. There should be general rules for the family and a separate set for each child, depending on age and other characteristics. Create them together.
- Work out how much time a child is allowed to use a smartphone: How long? With which devices? What is the child doing during this time?
- Consider why you, as a parent, need to limit gadget use. Why does the child need the restriction? Let the child answer this question themselves, if they can. What matters here is a real answer, as it is at the time of starting. Even if the child thinks that he or she does not need to impose bans and restrictions at all.
- Do you have a support group? Are your family and friends prepared to have a united policy of working and dealing with the problem that has arisen?
- See to it that you regulate for yourself how much time you spend with an electronic device. Children often mimic their parents’ behaviour. If you yourself are “hanging out” on your smartphone, you need to start with yourself.
- Important point. If you don’t use a gadget, you will have some free time. What should I do with it? Useful? Pleasure? Doing nothing?
Paediatricians recommend creating technology-free areas in the house, for example in the kitchen or living room. And it’s a good idea to ensure that children don’t see anything, play games or take phones or tablets to bed an hour before bedtime (otherwise it can be difficult to fall asleep). It is often advised not to allow children (and yourself!) to use phones and tablets during meals. It is important to teach older children the rules for using social media, and talk about privacy of information, cyberbullying and other difficult topics. It is important to monitor what sites children visit and what apps they install.
You can draw up your own set of rules that all family members sign. Discuss these rules regularly. Are they appropriate for all family members? Are there any changes since the rules were introduced?
It is also useful to calculate how much time each child should spend in front of the screen, taking into account how much time they spend at school, playing sports, doing homework and other activities.
What are the basic rules for using phones and tablets for children?
First of all, remain a loving parent and try to give your child more time. Don’t think that anything involving the internet and gadgets is bad.
Set clear timelines
Children need clear rules around routines to help them understand when and under what conditions they can play with gadgets. Establish a timescale for how much time your child can spend with the tablet, phone or computer (depending on age and other conditions). It is better to divide it into several sessions. The time that can be reduced should be spent playing, talking, reading or walking together.
Do not use cartoons at meal times as a way to put the child to bed or to calm the child during a tantrum
Watching videos, playing a game and eating at the same time is not healthy. We do not feel full when watching videos and may overheat. This habit can later lead to eating disorders.
Watching cartoons before going to bed or falling asleep to them is also very harmful. Our brain perceives the light emitted by technology as daylight and refuses to produce sleep hormones. Simply put, the brain refuses to sleep. So an hour before bedtime, you should put away all gadgets and allow your brain to calm down.
Giving your child a phone to calm him down is not a good habit. If you abuse this habit, it will be harder for the child to learn to control his or her emotions.
Remember that gadgets are not just for fun
Think of your phone and another such tech as a learning tool, not just a game tool. Apps can be used to train memory, attention, languages or multiplication tables. In this case, it is important to remember the dosage of time. Gadgets are not taboo. You must show your child how to use them to their advantage. And they should be taught the rules which are important to follow.
Talk about the dangers
In the virtual world, even adults are often preyed upon by scammers. The situation is more acute with children. Therefore, before giving access to social networks or other online resources, it is advisable to run through all possible scenarios. Of course, there is no need to intimidate. But be sure to explain that communicating with strangers, sending them your own photos or videos, and giving your address is forbidden. Nor should you click on unfamiliar links or enter payment card details.
Set an example for your children to use gadgets in moderation. Otherwise, it won’t work. Parents who like to use mobile phones and computers themselves are unlikely to persuade their child to take up other leisure activities.
It should be remembered that trust and friendly conversation in any situation will prevent negative consequences of all kinds.