When children’s lives have no off switch, it’s time to log off the screen

Recently there has been much discussion with regards to adjusting guidelines for children’s screen time to come in line with something that is more “practical” in today’s world
Recently there has been much discussion with regards to adjusting guidelines for children’s screen time to come in line with something that is more “practical” in today’s world

Everyone, everywhere seems to be rushed. 

This is nothing new for adults, but what is the impact of these super charged lives for our children?

Kids brains are still not given any breathing space as they log onto a screen in the car, at the shops, in a restaurant and even at home to avoid – God forbid – being bored.

As a professional in child mental health, this is my biggest concern for our offspring. The introduction of electronic screens on a daily basis to our children is reducing their attention span, damaging their ability to self-entertain and play imaginatively and making them downright lazy.

I am worried we are breeding a generation of kids who can’t problem solve or think for themselves, and live a life on the fuel of instant gratification.

The problem lies with the fact that what makes screens so appealing – dozens of stimuli at your fingertips, constant rewards, and the ability to process multiple actions simultaneously – is exactly what young brains do not need.

Instead of stimulating brain activity, screens in fact shut down the need for mental effort, spoon-feeding our kids artificial images and sounds.

In fact the supposed benefits of educational apps for young children just doesn’t stack up when you consider that these devices are actually stunting the development of skills such as communication, patience and emotional intelligence.

Recently there has been discussions in regards to adjusting guidelines for children’s screen time to come in line with something that is more “practical” in today’s world.

While the jury is out on the exact time that may be ‘appropriate’, in my mind screen time presents very few positive benefits (beyond their fantastic use as bribery for good behaviour).

Yes, banishing screens altogether is impossible. School homework is mostly done on the computer and Google provides a wealth of information for a curious mind.

But if you are struggling with your child’s behaviour then pull the plug and challenge your child to simply find something else to do (cue boredom complaints and screams that you’re the worst parent ever).

Slowly but surely your child’s mind will need to adapt and start ticking over in a new way – a calmer way, a more imaginative way, and a more engaged way.

  • Clare Rowe, Child & Family psychologist, clarerowe.com.au