How much is too much - reducing students' screen time
Trying to limit the time our kids spend glued to a screen has become more challenging over the past 18 months. Many students, particularly in NSW, Victoria and the ACT were forced into a virtual existence having to rely on digital technologies for remote learning and socialising.
Despite digital technologies helping students stay connected, the increased dependence on their devices has left many parents worried. The over-reliance on digital platforms and too much screen time was the number one concern of Edstart customers as a result of disruptions to education due to COVID-19.
Impacts of excessive screen use on studentsGuidelines from the Federal Government recommend kids between 5 and 17 shouldn’t spend more than 2 hours on their screens outside of school work, a limit that was exceeded by Australian children even prior to the pandemic.
Excessive screen use for recreational purposes has been linked to detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of young people. One study found recreational screen use started adversely affecting girls’ mental wellbeing after 75 minutes and after 105 minutes for boys.
Links have also been made to depression, obesity, poor quality of life, inhibited emotional regulation and decreased physical and cognitive abilities.
Strategies for managing screen timeWhile digital technologies have become more embedded into students’ lives causing parents to become increasingly concerned, there are ways to manage the time kids spend glued to their screens.
Limiting screen timeImposing time limits on the recreational use of technologies such as gaming and social media is one way to help regulate screen time. China’s recent limit on children’s online gaming to 3 hours a week resonated with a lot of parents anxious about the effects of their children’s prolonged use of digital technologies.
Getting activeEncouraging physical or outdoor activities is another way to get kids away from their screens and helps to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. One study found that an hour of physical activity and less than 2 hours of screen time a day can assist with optimising mental welfare.
Monitoring quality of activitiesMonitoring the quality of students’ virtual experiences is another important factor to consider. Online activities such as watching educational videos on YouTube, taking online courses, learning coding or following exercise tutorials can have a positive impact on students’ learning and wellbeing.
Games such as Minecraft and Roblox, in moderation, can also be a useful educational tool for kids, promoting creativity, problem solving, collaboration and computing skills.
Moderating students’ screen time not only assists in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing but it helps to limit the dependence on their devices and encourages kids to focus on other activities such as their education, exercise and hobbies.