The Impact of Screens on Children, and How to Encourage a Healthier Lifestyle


Across the United States, children appear to be spending far more time in front of screens, and less time improving their physical and mental health through positive activity. The availability of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and various other media has changed the way that parents and children think about “play”, at a much younger age. Not only are most adults allowing screen time, but many actively encourage it as a cheap and easy form of passive entertainment. After all — giving your youngster a tablet to play with for a couple of hours is an easy way for adults to take care of bills, household chores, and other tasks, and many of the games and apps developed for children on tablets and smartphones are developed with an educational purpose in mind.


Over the last decade, tablets and smartphones have evolved from rare luxuries into everyday essentials. The average 10-year old has access to five different screens in their home, and many are suffering from symptoms of depression or addiction as a result. However, it’s not just older children that are feeling the impact. Babies have jumped on the bandwagon with technology, with many children under five being exposed to screens on a weekly, or even daily basis. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child spends 7 hours a day using a screen – showing evidence of addiction in the unmanaged release of dopamine.

With the widespread usage of technology in the world today, many parents have started to question whether the introduction of these devices to young children could be detrimental. Below, we’ll discuss how screen-time affects children, and what parents can do to support better development.

The True Risks of Too Much Screen Time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time should be limited to between one and two hours a day for children over the age of two, and should be restricted entirely for younger infants. Numerous recent studies have linked excess screen time to:


The more time a child spends attached to a tablet, smartphone, or television screen, the more chance they have of becoming overweight. Not only can children develop an appetite for junk food thanks to constantly playing fast-food ads, but they also tend to reduce their physical activity levels, and over-indulge on snacks when exposed to screens.

Irregular Sleep Patterns:

Research suggests that screen time for children under the age of three is often linked to irregular sleep patterns. What’s more, for children of any age, the more time they spend with technology, the more likely they are to struggle with falling asleep or maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule.

Behavioral Issues:

Children who spend numerous hours a day using computers, or watching television are more likely to have social, emotional, and attention-related problems. What’s more, recent evidence has begun to suggest that for children aged 1-5, excessive screen exposure could inhibit an infant’s ability to recognize emotions.

Reduced Academic Performance:

Children who spend too much time using electronic media regularly show problems with their school performance and academic scores. A study conducted by the Cohen Children’s medical center of New York determined that infants between 0-3 years old had lower verbal scores on testing when given touch-screens with which to play “educational” games.

What Can Parents Do?

Although giving your very young child some technology to play with while you deal with important tasks may not seem like a problem, the truth is that youngsters have nothing to gain, and a lot to lose when exposed to excessive screen time. After all, the more time they spend on smartphones and tablets, the less time they have playing creatively and interacting with loved ones. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can limit screen exposure, and encourage more active, healthier play.

For example, the best way to start is to set a good example for your youngsters by reducing the amount of time you spend on technology when you’re with them. Rather than setting your children aside so that you can watch your favorite television show, set your television to record the things you might want to watch before your kids wake up or after they go to sleep, then spend as much time as possible with them. Show your children the value of prioritizing family and social time wherever possible, and make a point of having enough time to sit down with your child for dinner, and speak to them about their day.

If you are going to give your child something to watch or play, get involved in the activity with them, commenting on the show, or asking questions about what your children see. This is the best way to make a passive entertainment experience into something more active and engaging.

Remember to Let Your Child Grow

Keep in mind that when you’re entertaining your child, the more that the toy does, the less your child will need to do. Your aim should be to find ways of having fun with your child that encourages learning, or helps them to develop their skills.

What techniques do you use to reduce screen time in your home? Let us know in the comments below!

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