The Duffy Blog

Mental & emotional wellness for today's youth & families

The Pitfalls of Device Screen Time for Children

The Pitfalls of Device Screen Time for Children

We are in a digital age where anything can be had at the touch of a button or through a few keystrokes of a tablet or phone.

It is nearly impossible to go anywhere or do anything without the inclusion of digital media.

It is safe to say that society has grown dependent upon the use of smart phones and tablets. They are helpful in many ways but to our nation’s youth, they can be detrimental to development.

This is something many parents, teachers, and employers are particularly concerned about.

Device screen time for children is defined by the amount of time kids spend using a computer, tablet, television, or other types of digital media.

With our youth, screen time is primarily used for video games, social media, and text messaging with peers throughout the day. While it’s convenient, entertaining, and sewn into the fabric of everyday life, it’s also problematic when screen time takes precedent over many things in life such as social, occupational, and academic functioning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children (ages 8-10) spend an average of eight hours per day on digital media while adolescents (ages 11-18) spend more than 11 hours per day.

That is more than half of our time spent awake on some platform of digital media that takes away from important areas of life.

Research indicates that normal development is interrupted as children and adolescents are unable to function well in social situations and are more likely to increase screen time as social situations are deemed uncomfortable or embarrassing.

While the digital age has favored those who can multi-task, increased screen time negatively affects the ability to narrow focus on one particular stimulus and complete a task.

Think completing one assignment and moving on to the next is difficult for most children and adolescent? Now, imagine a child working on one assignment while ALSO performing the following activities (in parallel):

  • watching a video online
  • listening to internet radio
  • video chatting with a friend

There’s just way too much is going on at once, thus making it difficult for any significant work to be completed.

Parents often report using screen time as a reward for their children and also as a way to deescalate negative behaviors.

While effective, the latter method will contribute to a poor understanding of conflict resolution.

Children and adolescents that are given screen time to “calm down” usually struggle with rules of the classroom and relationships. It is simply not appropriate to reward a negative behavior. Doing so will only intensify the behavior over time making it even more difficult to extinguish it in the future.

Our recommendation is that device screen time as a reward be used sparingly while socializing with friends, playing sports, or spending time with others are used as the primary reward.

In addition to this, provide parameters around screen time, perhaps making it appropriate for the weekends or impose a data limit on the cell phone plan. Doing so will promote forethought and planning by youths to plan their screen time around healthier, more interactive activities.

Additional reading

Have questions or concerns about technology children or youth? Need support?

Please contact our counseling team to get help and support for your mental health challenges or needs.

Photo credit: Mayra Ruiz-McPherson via ruizmcpherson

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