Many factors are at play when bringing up well-adjusted, happy kids, and modern life can sometimes make things even harder. From technology that allows them to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, to schools that pile pressure on them to achieve exceptional grades, you need to help your children find balance. But what is that balance?
Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. While many adults are texting, talking, or surfing the web on our own phones, our kids are doing the same. Being mindful of our children’s screen time is important. According to a recent study, children under the age of six are exposed to more screen time than is recommended.
How Much Should They Be Getting?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) most recent policy statement on media usage by children can help parents make informed decisions about screen time for their children. A major takeaway from the policy is that parents should limit the screen time for children from ages 2-5 to just one hour per day. For kids older than five, the AAP recommends that screens NOT interfere with healthy living essentials, like exercise, sleep, meal times, etc. As kids get older, it is important to look at what they are doing on their screens, rather than how much time they are spending doing it!
Why Too Much Could Be Detrimental
Today's children are bombarded with screens! Here are some of the ways it could be harmful to their developing brains:
People are exposed to blue light during the day, which suppresses melatonin. Blue light-emitting devices, such as smartphones and tablets, emit light equivalent to daylight, which can suppress the hormone melatonin, which slows down the body's metabolic rate and helps you sleep. What's more, the blue light emitted by these devices can cause severe eye damage, which can lead to headaches, tiredness, and even insomnia. It is via this sleep deprivation that the harm occurs. It is bad enough for adults to lack sleep, but children of all ages need to get the correct amount of sleep in order for their brains to develop the proper cognitive functions.
Many parents feel that their children are “addicted” to their phones. While this is not a clinical diagnosis, negative and harmful behaviors can develop from too much device use, such as:
These symptoms can manifest in various ways, and they often decrease in severity once device use has decreased.
How Much Sleep Should Children Get?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a general rule of thumb is:
4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours.
1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours.
3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours.
6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours.
13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
The importance of sleep cannot be understated. Without it, our bodies are not able to properly repair themselves or function. Sleep is a necessary process that allows the body to recharge after long days. But aside from feeling tired, sleep is also essential for mental well-being and development. For more information on when your child should wake up based on when they go to sleep, you can check on this page to calculate the timings. The correct amount will vary from child to child; however, it is vital that their sleep is restful and that they go through the proper amount of Deep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. If any part of this cycle becomes disrupted or isn't enough, the health benefits will disappear, and your child will wake without being well-rested.
How Much Studying Should Children Do?
Parents often wonder how much studying children should do and when it should start and finish. Generally speaking, this is a complex question as children have different ages and academic abilities. Nonetheless, it’s wise to set aside the same amount of time for studying each day. Speak with your child's primary teacher to get their opinion on this. If your child needs some help, you might want to increase the amount of time they need. Alternatively, if your child is academically gifted, you might consider encouraging alternative forms of expression that are fun and beneficial, such as learning an instrument.
Every child is different, and you know and understand your child better than anyone else. Speak with them openly, frankly, and often so they know the importance of reducing screen time, sleeping more, and simply aiming to be the best that they can be.