Marisca Bakker

Cracking the code on screen time

Marisca unwillingly looks into why screen time for children is bad

Screen time.

It is such a taboo subject that no parent really wants to talk about or admit how much they let their little ones watch.

I honestly haven’t calculated how much time my daughter spends in front of the TV or tablet. I’d like to think not a lot but ten minutes here and a half hour there probably does add up. But sometimes I need to cook dinner uninterrupted or sometimes she needs some quiet time. The tablet is only loaded with educational apps and I try to steer her toward quality content on TV, but sometimes silly shows appeal to her more.

I nixed YouTube after I glanced over her shoulder one day and saw her watching some guy perform a c-section on a barbie with a play doh stomach. It was weird.

Sometimes I wonder how bad screen time is and other times I don’t want to think about it. Denial can be very helpful.

According to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.

The guidelines recommend children between the ages of two and four spend no more than one hour in front of screens each day. And for babies and toddlers up to the age of two, no screen time is advised.

Why is screen time so bad? After doing a bit of research, there are several factors that contribute to making this a bad habit.

The light that is emitted from tablets and phones can cause retinal damage.

Also, when children are watching TV they are usually sitting and not being active.

Meanwhile, for older children, studies have linked digital media such as social networks to changes in mental health. Facebook use, for instance, has been linked to drops in well-being.

After reading these guidelines I decided to curb her screen time and actually monitor it. I need to make more of an effort to set limits and encourage other types of activities.

When I cooked dinner the other night, I invited her to help. She loved it. It was a bit of a test of my patience but it was worth it. She appreciated the meal more and ate more of it. Cooking is such an essential skill. It can also help with fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, reading and basic math. Other than the extra mess, it was a good time that we will make a habit.

Now just to teach her how to do the dishes.

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