Screen Time – does it really matter?
05 July 2019
I remember when mobile phones first entered the market. They were literally the size of a shoe box and only those who drove a BMW were privileged to own one. Slowly but surely mobile phones became smaller, smarter and more accessible to more and more people.
As time went on, the phone morphed into a mini computer. Nowadays, it can do almost anything that a laptop computer will do. According to Forbes magazine, about 5 billion people across the world own a mobile device. That’s staggering. When I go on holidays or even do something as simple as shopping, I am amazed at how much the phone has become a part of our person. I see people scrolling, texting, gaming and talking on their device. It has even become, for some parents, the defacto baby sitter.
With so many people using devices so regularly many of us have pondered the question - does hours of screen time really have a negative effect, particularly on the teenage brain? There has been credible research conducted in recent years to indicate that it does. A recent study in America (Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study) found children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time achieved lower scores on thinking and language tests.
Other studies have concluded that “excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life – from sense of wellbeing to academic or career success to relationship skills.” (Dr Victoria L Dunkley, 2014)
So what is the solution?
Let’s face it, screens are here to stay. However, I believe we need to teach our kids responsible use. Remember, you are the parent. A good start is to have screens only in certain places of the home. For example, only in the common areas such as the loungeroom and kitchen. Allowing your teens to have unrestricted access in places like bedrooms can affect sleep quality and nervousness. Actively monitor. Check in regularly as to what they are doing on their device. Be the parent. They may not like it, but they will appreciate that you actually care.
Have a set time for screen use. For example, before or after dinner. Keep your dinner time sacred as a family; a special time once a day where you can catch up with each other. Turn the phone or computer off.
At the end of the day, we all love our devices and none of us are about to throw them out. I personally save a lot of time by paying my bills, checking the weather, booking my next holiday and doing the odd bit of online shopping on my phone. Like many things in life, it’s about being responsible and having a healthy balance.
Assistant Head of Secondary