Children today grow up with screens in easy reach, from televisions and computers to tablets and smartphones. These devices often offer some educational value, but the amount of time children spend with these screens can have a significant impact on their development and life as they continue to grow.
Parents often worry if their children are developing and growing normally, especially when their children struggle with attention issues. And with all the information out there about screen time and kids with attention issues, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we put together a few of the important things that you should know about screen time.
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- Screen time for children under the age of 2 can impact their cognitive development. Exposure to screens at such a young age seems to do more harm than good, even if the content the children are viewing is considered educational. As much as they may love Elmo, they might be too young to really benefit from watching Sesame Street. Babies who have screen time too early in life may find it difficult to focus, concentrate, communicate, and to develop their vocabulary like other children as they grow.
- Screen time doesn’t conclusively cause attention issues, but there may be a correlation. There are an increasing number of studies available showing a link between screen time and attention issues in kids. But to sum them all up, while the evidence isn’t conclusive that screen time causes attention issues in children, there does seem to be a connection. Screen time definitely doesn’t help, that’s for sure, and it can make attention issues worse.
- Screen time could make it difficult for children to make friends. Every parent wants their child to have lots of friends, but for some kids with attention issues, it can be more difficult. If those kids spend a lot of their time with screens, it can be even tougher for them to make and keep friends. Because they are so used to interacting with the screen, they may not develop the ability to interpret non-verbal cues from their peers or process interactions the same way.
- Screen time may make it more difficult for your child to fall and stay asleep. Children with attention issues are already at a higher risk of having trouble falling and staying asleep, but when screen time comes into the mix, it’s a recipe for a difficult night. The constant visual stimulation from screen time, especially when it occurs right before bed, can make it hard for your child to wind down enough to fall asleep. And when your child can’t sleep, it makes it even harder for you to sleep.
- Too much screen time could impact your child’s physical health, too. When children find more joy and entertainment in playing video games or watching shows on their tablets, it makes it harder for them to want to go outside and play. They may even struggle to use their imaginations to play games with their friends. Not only is fresh air important for your child’s development, without this regular play time, your child may start to have issues with weight gain, which could lead to more serious physical issues. It’s important to encourage your children to find active ways to entertain themselves away from screens.
- Screen time is addicting. Even adults who didn’t grow up with such ready access to screen time find screens today addicting. Consider how long you can go without checking your smartphone. For kids, it’s even harder since they don’t have the same kind of impulse control that adults have. Early exposure to screen time for kids can make it even easier for them to become reliant and addicted to those screens as they grow up. As a parent, you know that it’s a common misconception that children with attention issues can’t focus. They can focus, especially with screens. And if they focus too much on those screens, it can be impossible to pry them away.
While it might be next to impossible for your child with attention issues to avoid screen time altogether, the most important thing to remember is moderation. Limiting screen time for your kids with attention issues will help ensure that it doesn’t become a larger issue or make their attention issues worse as they continue to grow. Try thinking of screens as tools, not toys, and that may help.