Many parents today are concerned that their kids may be spending too much time on the Internet. However, the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that “screen time” as a whole is the problem.
What is screen time? It’s any time spent in front of a digital screen of any kind. This includes TVs, video game players, handheld digital devices, and of course computers. So, how much time is considered to be too much for kids to be on the Internet and in front of screens in general?
Let’s Look at the Stats
Parents around the world are concerned that their kids may be spending so much time in the “screen world”, that their kids may be missing out on real life experiences. Here are some of the stats to back that up:
It’s estimated that kids and teens between the ages of 8 to 28 spend about 44.5 hours each week in front of digital screens.
About 23% of kids and teens have reported that they actually feel as if they have addictions to video games. That breaks down to 31% of males and 13% of females.
No one is suggesting that kids should not get any screen time or access to the Internet. These days, kids and especially teens need the Internet to research information for school projects. And, when used properly, it can be a reliable source of information for kids who simply love to read or want to learn more about specific topics.
The Dangers of Too Much Screen Time on Kids
However, it’s up to parents to regulate the amount of time their kids spend online each day. You need to make sure your child has time for other valuable activities, such as eating healthily, reading, homework, writing, physical activities, extracurricular activities, etc If not, these are just some of the negative effects too much screen time can have on your children:
- Increased chances of becoming obese, even morbidly obese if the problem continues for a long period of time. There’s no physical movement involved in screen time and often it is combined with munching on high calorie snack food. Plus, kids don’t like to take time away from their digital screens to sit down to healthy meals. And, what’s more, many parents aren’t making them.
- Harder time getting to bed, and problems with them falling asleep as they continue obsessing about the Internet, video games, and TV programs during the night
- Increased possibility of developing depression, anxiety, and attention problems, including ADD and ADHD
Signs Your Child May Become an Internet Addict
If your child spends too much time on the Internet, compulsive behavior may develop. This can lead to an internet addiction, which just like any other type of addiction, can destroy a healthy balance of interests and activities in your teen’s life. So, here are some signs that your child may be developing an addiction to being online:
- Stays online much longer than intended to originally
- Becomes angry and/or agitated when interrupted while online
- Gets irritable when access to the Web is denied
- Prefers being online than being around real, live friends and family
- Sneaks online when you or other adults aren’t watching
- Lies about the amount of time spent on the Internet
- When offline, remains preoccupied with getting back online
- Becomes moody, irritable, and/or depressed when offline for a couple days
- Stays up all night to be on the Web
- Checks social media and emails frequently throughout each day
- Sacrifices doing homework or household chores for being on the Internet
- Disobeys rules set in relation to Internet time limits
- Forms new bonds with people met on the Web
- Loses all interest in activities previously enjoyed before becoming obsessed with being online
4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Screen Time
#1 Choose a Location Wisely
Set the home computer up in a central location, outside of your child’s room. And, make sure it’s situated so that you can easily view the screen when you step into the room.
#2 Install Apps for Age-Appropriate Content
These apps should be installed on the tablets and smartphones. They’ll ensure that the sites your child visits are age-appropriate.
#3 Limit the Hours Your Child Spends Online
How much time is too much time on the Internet for kids and teens?
Children under 2 years old – These kids should get absolutely no screen time at all
Children between the ages of 2 to 10 – One hour per day of supervised time online
Tween and Teens – No more than two hours each day after homework is complete
#4 Kid-Proof Your Browsers
Install parental control software on your computers. They will screen web searches and sites for inappropriate content. Sites can also be blocked based on your chosen protection levels.
Just like any other addiction, Internet addiction can be a way for your kids to escape the real world. Troubling situations and painful feelings may be suppressed, which will only cause bigger problems later in life. If screen time seems to be a problem, spend more time talking to your kids to find out why. And, if the problem is too severe for you to handle alone, get help for your child today.
by Tyler Clark, Online Outreach Coordinator Liahona Academy, a residential treatment center for troubled boys
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