When was the last time you were asked by a fellow parent about how much screen time you allow your children? I was just asked last week. And the week before that, too. 

We’ve all been in situations with our kids where it’s easier to hand them an iPad to stave off boredom than engage them in an activity. We are increasingly faced with career demands that exceed nine-to-five hours, and a tablet is often the perfect babysitter while we scramble to take care of household chores after a long day.  

Where electronics used to be reserved for a few hours on the weekend, they are now creeping into the hours before and after school, during meals and bedtime routines.

Research has shown that you have to set boundaries with screen time like you would any other aspect of your child’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 2 have no screen time at all, kids ages 3 to 5 should spend one hour at most per day in front of a screen and children 6 and older should have consistent limits on media time. The AAP even offers a handy Family Media Plan to help you get started on curbing the electronic media consumption in your family. Set an example today and your kids will follow.

At Muskoka Woods, guests are encouraged to leave their electronic devices at home in order to benefit from being fully immersed in all that camp has to offer. Lake Rosseau is so much better when it’s not experienced behind a screen! You can read about our position on electronic device use on our FAQ section of our website

Here are five ways that screen time may negatively impact your child’s life: 

Sleep

Sleep can do wonders for your mood, mental alertness and overall health. Experts recommend that children should get nine to 13 hours of sleep per night, depending on their age, and the increased use of electronics before bed is drastically reducing the time kids are spending asleep. According to this article from The Conversation, screen time is not only cutting into the time that kids should be preparing for sleep, but it’s also replacing activities such as exercise that are beneficial to sleep. The article also points out that the bright light emitted from screens before bedtime suppresses the release of melatonin — an important hormone for regulating the sleep-wake cycle.      

Social Interaction

If a child spends more time behind a screen than face-to-face with peers, how can we expect them to develop the social skills needed for adulthood? In short: we can’t. Not only do electronic devices encourage anti-social behaviour, a UCLA study found that kids who went without screen time recognized non-verbal emotional cues such as facial expressions, body language, and gestures significantly more than those who spent time staring into screens. 

Attention Span

Experts say that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is 10 times more common today than it was 20 years ago, and increases in electronic device use may be to blame. Studies have shown that excessive screen time contributes to the development of attention problems in kids ranging in age from pre-school through adolescence, in the classroom and beyond. 

Obesity 

Childhood obesity is one of the leading health concerns for parents in North America. If kids are stuck behind screens, they certainly aren’t outside getting the exercise they need. Technology can also lead to an increase in snacking — and healthy options aren’t always on the table. 

Cyberbullying 

The schoolyard bully no longer has to wait until the next day to torment kids. Digital platforms allow individuals to cyberbully their victims anywhere, anytime — and often anonymously. And because of the anonymous nature of the bullying, researchers are finding that the attacks are often more severe for the targeted individuals. 

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