It’s plain to see that in our fast-paced digital world that children are being introduced to technology, and especially screens, at an increasingly younger age. But at what cost does the convenience of a pocketable distraction device come? The debate is continuous. We don’t know about you but we’ve read some pretty damning headlines about the effects screens are having on our little ones.
But fear not, studies paint a more nuanced picture than some headlines suggest. For instance, a 2017 Unicef report on the effects of digital technology on children found that:
- It often had a positive impact on social relationships.
- Its influence on mental well-being was minimal compared to family and socio-economic factors.
- No direct connection between screen time and lack of exercise was found, other than children who were already relatively inactive were more likely to spend more time using digital devices.
But what are the experiences of real parents?
A recent survey, questioned a thousand UK parents about their attitudes toward screen time and its effects on their children.
Perhaps the most surprising finding of the study is the sheer volume of young children owning their own mobile phone or tablet, with 32% of children having their own phone before they’re 9, and 65% having their own tablet.
The survey found that millennial parents (those 35 and under) had the most relaxed attitudes towards buying their kids tech, with 20% of millennial parents buying their child their own phone before the age of 4, and 38% their own tablet. One of the reasons for this is the sheer volume of parents that admitted they felt pressured into buying their child tech, 58% across the UK, with the number rocketing to 75% of parents who live in London.
Many parents worry about the impact the devices are having on their kids, with 48% worried that they’re too dependent on the devices, while 44% are worried about the impact on school work and 40% worried that their children are not engaged in the world around them.
The report shows that over a quarter of parents noticed negative behaviours as a result of device usage, which will resonate with any parent who has dealt with a tantrum as a result of taking an iPad of their child!
As with most things in life, the best approach is often one of balance. It seems entirely sensible to keep screen time to some limit and the official UK guidelines from the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends no more than two hours of leisure screen time per day for children of all ages. Here are a few tips:
- Set a good example by being mindful of your own screen time
- Add some screen free family times into your daily routine
- Make use of parental control technology, such as Screen Time
- Make other entertaining options easily available
To find out more about the survey and what you can do to help your child develop a healthy relationship with technology, visit the Legal & General website here.