With the prevalence of smartphones, tablets, and TVs, and plenty of exciting, new digital content for kids, it's easy to understand why more families are incorporating screen time into their daily routines. Kids apps and videos help inspire a passion for learning, exploration and creativity in our children. Like with everything, though, too much can be a bad thing.
Parenting advocates and researchers warn that excessive or inappropriate screen use can cause physical and emotional development problems in children. Obesity, trouble sleeping, behavioral issues, headaches, depression are among the downsides of excessive or inappropriate screen use.
We tracked down 10 of the most common warning signs that you should check your child's screen habits. Read on to find out whether you should consider adjusting your child's screen use, and learn how to strike a healthy balance in your home.
Warning Signs of Screen Addiction in Children
Last year, the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development tested the impacts of screen use on children between the ages of 4 and 11. These warning signs come from the Michigan study, our own observations as parents and caregivers, as well as information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Common Sense Media.
- Your child tries to get on a device first thing in the morning, right after they wake up
- Your child complains or throws a temper tantrum when you tell them it's time to turn off the device.
- He or she is always thinking and/or talking about favorite shows, games, or videos.
- You've caught your child sneaking a device or lying about how long he or she has been on the device.
- Your child seems to only laugh, smile or show signs of happiness when using a screen or seems frustrated or anxious when not using a device.
- He or she uses device to feel better after having a bad day.
- Your child isn't interested in other things, especially things he or she used to enjoy.
- Your child is constantly asking to use a device and keeps wanting more and more screen time.
- You notice your child appears tired throughout the day or isn't getting enough sleep.
- Your child complains of headaches and/or neck pain.
Note that some of these indicators may be symptoms of something other than excessive or inappropriate screen use. You know your child best, and if ever in doubt, don't hesitate to reach out to a trusted doctor.
How to Set Screen Use Boundaries For Your Family
If you've experienced one or several of these warning signs with your child, it may be time to take a look at how your family is using screens. One of the best ways to create boundaries for screen use in your home is by creating a family screen plan.
A family screen plan outlines basic rules for screen use for your children. It tackles how much time you allow your child to spend on a device, where and when the device is welcome, and how active you are in your child's screen time. For example, the AAP recommends only an hour a day of screen time for children between the ages of 2-5 years, with no screen time for children under 18 months. Your screen plan could reflect those rules, or permit more screen hours while making dinner time and bedtime off-limits for devices. It's up to you and what you think is best for your children.
Another way to prevent or treat screen abuse in children is to be picky about what they're watching on the device. Your child may be picking up on inappropriate behavior found in many popular kids videos. They may also be falling victim to the addictive qualities of low-quality kids content. Many kids apps don't review videos to make sure they're free of scary surprises or ensure that content is appropriate or educational, so the responsibility falls on you to make sure that your children aren't watching videos they shouldn't.
We established strict guidelines to make sure kids only see the most educational, high quality kids videos in Jellies. We review every single video to make sure Jellies doesn't include any child celebrities, unboxing videos, or content with inappropriate themes and behavior. What's more, we put parents in control, giving you the option to pick and choose which topics you want your child to interact with. If your child loves trucks but is afraid of thunderstorms, you can select from dozens of truck-related topics while passing on our educational, extreme weather videos. We're serious about curation, so you can easily add all topics from a certain age range (say, all topics in the 2-4 age range for your 3-year-old daughter) without worrying that she'll stumble across something scary.
Overall, guidelines are just that — meant for you to consider and adapt to best suit your family. Guidelines for technology and children change over time, and strict rules won't always work in the reality of daily life. The best way to introduce healthy screen habits is by making sure your child's day to day isn't dominated by a device, and that they're consuming the best quality content when they are on a screen. For more information on using technology safely and striking a balance for your family, check out our other parenting tech resources on the Jellies blog.
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