It’s All a Question of Balance
A recent report written by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health created a bit of a stir a few weeks ago. It claimed that there was no need for parents to set limits on the amount of screen time their children had as there was not enough medical evidence that screen usage had any harm on child health.
It did make the proviso that it was sensible to ensure that children stop using screens at least an hour before their bedtime to protect their sleep and prevent sleep problems from occurring from the blue light screens emit.
However, it claimed that it was becoming increasingly difficult for parents to set limits on screen usage for their children as the use of phones, tablets and computers become more and more integrated into our everyday life. Screens are an essential part of communication, entertainment and education and are becoming more and more part of school and homework.
Despite the headlines leading us to believe therefore, that we can offer our children carte blanche when it comes to the amount they are plugged in, the detail in the report did warn about the effect that using screens too much have on children’s fitness, sleep and mental health.
So, does all of this leave parents more confused than ever? Well, as a parent of three children aged 14, 11 and 9, I have to say that the amount of time and energy that goes into parenting my children when it comes to their use of technology is immense! It’s harder work for me and my husband than getting our children to sleep through the night, weaning and potty training were altogether!
So what are parents to do when it comes to the decisions we make about screen time for our children? Well, it’s all a matter of balance.
The benefits of the technology that we have on offer are mind-blowing. Our children are growing up in a totally different world to the one we grew up in. What they have access to at their fingertips is incredible.
In Warwickshire Libraries we embrace technology and offer many services to young people that educate and encourage the development of their IT skills. We offer online reference tools such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the chance to borrow coding equipment such as Micro:bits, and even workshops using VR headsets, 3D printers, robots and more in our Let’s Make spaces.
However, there is a caution with all of this technology. The amount of time children spend on screens each day has an effect on other necessary parts of a healthy life – how much time they go outside, are active, and the amount of time they spend reading.
How much children play computer games, browse social media or surf the internet has a detrimental effect on their concentration levels. They get used to having information thrown at them all the time and engage in only a small proportion of what seems relevant to them at any given moment.
Yet, reading books requires a different set of skills. Rather than filtering out useless information in milliseconds they need to slow their brains down, savour the words, and understand the development of story lines and empathise with characters.
So, when it comes to screens and children it’s all a question of balance – embrace the new technology but treasure the time-honoured riches of books, stories and imagination.
Here are some great books that develop technology skills for kids that you can borrow from your local library:
Star Wars Coding Projects – Jon Woodcock
Minecraft Master Builder Toolkit – Joey Davey, Jonathan Green, Juliet Stanley
iRobot – Clive Gifford
The Quick Expert’s Guide to Creating an App – Chris Martin
How to Make a Movie in Ten Easy Lessons – Robert Blofield