Screen Time: Harmful or Helpful?

As an educator soon entering the work field, it is important for me to consider the effects of screen time for the younger generation and the implications that can be seen within the classroom. It is estimated that children spend 7 hours a day in front of electronic media and that children as young as two regularly play on I-pads or have tech-related toys in their room. The realisation has sunk in that screen time is inevitable for children in this modern day. While this is not always a negative experience for children, it can definitely affect aspects of their life that are important to  be aware of.

Long Term Consequences: 

When children engage in too much screen time, they are actually subjecting themselves to permanent damage to their still developing brains. Too much screen time can start to impede a student’s development, we especially see this in a child’s ability to concentrate, focus, to build a large vocabulary and to communicate with others. Between the ages of birth and three years, our brains develop very quickly and are especially sensitive to the environment around us (known as the critical period). The critical period really is critical because it provides children with their permanent foundation which all later brain function is built off of. So, one can see why it is very important to monitor screen time and be aware of it’s effects on little ones. The main issue with smartphone’s or devices like I-pads is that they are shortcut tools. When a child gets a story read to them, they have to turn the voice into words, visualize complete pictures and follow the story line which takes mental effort and increases the brain’s ability to function at higher levels. When an smartphone-told story spoon-feeds the reader images words and pictures all at once, these higher level thinking abilities do not happen and the reader can become lazy when having to decode everything in a book on their own. This amazing article Behind Online Behaviour describes the pro’s and con’s to screen time wonderfully! (Check it out).

I am currently taking SOC 288, which is a class focused around addictions and the effects that they have on society and the individual. Too much online screen time, especially at a young age can be a big factor on whether an individual will experience an internet addiction and the side effects are very similar to that of drug and alcohol addictions. In this article from Nicole Crawford it suggests that effects such as moodiness, restlessness, strange craving, incoherent speech, inability to focus and emotional outbursts are all things that an individual might exhibit when trying to quit smoking or drug use. Nicole has stated that this is also what her daughter is like after engaging with a two hour Disney movie. So, if the effects are this crazy, why do people subject their children to them? Nicole lets us know!

  1. It’s easy and convenient

Many people are so busy in this rush,rush,go environment we live in, so for many parents its a lot easier to just plop a child down in front of a movie or game while they can stay busy at whatever it is they need to do. I work in a restaurant and I see SO MANY TIMES parents pushing their smartphone in front of their child when they are acting up. It may be convenient but it is HARMFUL! Staaap doing this people.

2. Its’s education, right?

Many of the app’s and games are targeted at young children to help them learn things like math, social values or reading/writing. While they might be education, children will only benefit greatly from them if a parent or caregiver is sitting with them, helping them interact.

3. ‘It helps my child focus’

NO! It might seem like the child is improving their ability to focus, but it is actually harming their attention span for the classroom. The ability to focus on a game increases because of the constant stimulation that the individual is receiving and the dopamine releases that go along with it. This actually makes it a lot more difficult to focus in the classroom or other settings where this stimulation isn’t occurring every minute.

Some other great articles to read for the effects of screen time and what an addiction might look at, check out these articles that I received in my addictions class!

Lost Online

Face It, Don’t Facebook it

Video Game Addiction and Social Responsibility

Also chapter 13 in Understanding Addiction Behaviours is a great read!

Although there are negative consequences to screen time for children, there can also be some great benefits to that come with monitored time and site usage. When used effectively, it can enhance learning inside and outcome of the classroom, ignite creativity and spark interest for students. Be mindful and use with caution!


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