How Much Screen Time Is Too Much For Our Under-Fives?
It is a tool that provides parents with instant peace.
Giving my children time on the tablet, phone or TV can also come with a huge dollop of guilt. It can be very hard to strike the balance right with these so-called 'isitters'. With no formal guidelines here in Ireland, we are relying on contradicting studies from elsewhere about how much is really too much.
This week in Australia, TV presenter Lisa Wilkinson came under fire for labelling parents 'crazy' for allowing children under five years to access technology. The Syndey Morning Herald reports she said;
"If, as a parent, you allow your children time in front of a screen - you give them iPads, you give them phones - before the age of five, I'm going to be generous, you are crazy. Come back to me when they're 14 and completely and utterly addicted to their screens. They have no social skills. That's when you'll realise what you did early has come back to bite you."
The mother of three adult children, was slammed by viewers of the talk show segment, with one viewer saying her opinion was "a really sweeping statement" and a "damaging thing to say" about parenting.
"Wow! That's a bit judgemental," another commenter wrote. "You say bring your kids back to me when they are teenagers and see what they are like?? Well, my two teenage boys had screen time, and they are just fine, thank you very much."
Here at home, Early Childhood Ireland posed a series of questions to 300 parents and they found;
- 57 per cent of parents have never received advice on the amount of time a young child should spend engaged in screen-based activities
- 66 per cent of parents believe it's ok for a young child to use technology freely, while 20 per cent feel that smart phones make parenting easier
- 72 per cent of parents believe that the purpose of their child watching TV is relaxation
The Growing Up in Ireland study found that on average, only 58 per cent of five-year-olds spent less than two hours in front of a screen on a weekday, but 14 per cent recorded more than three hours of screen time. Guidelines abroad differ too. In America, kids aged five to 18 years are advised not to spend more than two hours a day using screens, and children under two years should not use a screen at all. But in a world obsessed with technology, these limits are increasingly unobtainable. A UK study found that nearly half of all three-and-four-year-olds have their own touch-screen devices. The danger is, of course, that our children risk having underdeveloped social skills and miss out on interaction with parents and don't get enough exercise.
In a world obsessed with technology, these limits are increasingly unobtainable. It is a massive cultural shift from how we were brought up. Personally, I try to take my cue from my own parental instincts. I think certain games my four-and-five-year-old play on our tablet are educational and interactive, but like anything else, it is all about balance, and when I think they have had enough I shoo them outside.
How long do you think is too long on screens for your children? Do you think it is just another guilt trip we have to feel as mums?