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Too Much Screen Time?

by Connie Huang, Business Office Senior Accountant

Recently, at home, the two activities your child might be doing is watching TV, then online learning, and then watching more TV. Some even use electronic devices to coax the child. In this era of popularization of smart devices, it is unrealistic to ban electronic products completely, but too much electronic screen time may not only affect children’s eyesight but also cause children to lose interest in other things and affect language, social and cognitive development.

Adric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine says, “When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary-all those abilities are harmed.”

The longer a child stays in front of a TV, the less time is left for other activities that can make a fun and memorable childhood. Although educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills, children’s daily activities should be healthy and balanced. Independent games can stimulate creativity, playing with other children can cultivate social skills and problem-solving skills, and physical activity is also essential for developing a healthy lifestyle. These are the reasons why children should balance various activities in life. 

What if your child refuses to turn off the screen, what can you do? Control the time. But how do you do it? 

  1. Negotiate in advance. It’s easier to say how long they can use the electronic device before they even start using it. If children are given a time limit in advance and are prepared, it’s not as difficult to turn off the screen when time is up. 
  2. Repeated reminder. Kids’ self-control is still developing, and it is difficult to ask them to take the initiative to turn off the screen consciously. The process of setting rules for children requires our patient and repeated reminders instead of pinning hope on the child to grow in an instant. 
  3. Establish a concept of time. Children don’t have any sense of time. If you tell them half an hour, they may not have a concept at all how long half an hour is. This requires us to give our children some more specific and intuitive concepts of time they can understand, such as the end of a certain episode, the end of the hourglass, setting an alarm clock, and so on. 
  4. Divert attention. Many children are addicted to electronic products because there are too few activities planned for them. Plan activities such as, “Let’s go to the park to play on slides”, Let’s build Legos together”, “Come for a snack”, and use other attractive arrangements to shift the child’s obsession with the screen. 
  5. Internal drive. When we manage our children, we ultimately hope that they can have the internal motivation and achieve self-discipline. 

Setting rules are necessary as well as executing resolutely and patiently. Firmness does not mean toughness. Toughness means that we impose our will on our children, and we order them how to do it. Firmness means doing what we should do. If we are always swaying, the child will always test the limits, and then every time we reach the limit of both sides, we all struggle. We all need to learn to have balance.