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Internet addiction – How much screen time is too much?

If you would like to reduce your child's screen time, or find it hard to set limits, read on for some expert advice.

A common concern for parents is whether their child is spending too much time online. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NIH), the concern is “screen time” in general, not just time spent surfing the Internet.

Screen time includes any time spent in front of a digital screen (cellphones, televisions, video game consoles, iPads, portable digital gadgets, and computers).

Crunching the numbers

Parents worldwide fear their children may miss out on “real-life” experiences because they spend so much time in the “screen world.” Here are some statistics to support that fear:

  • Studies suggest that children and teens ages eight and older spend an average of 44.5 hours each week in front of digital displays.
  • 23% of children and adolescents admit they can’t go a day without using their computer, cell phone, or playing video games. 

The dangers of excessive screen time for children

Our responsibility as parents is to limit the amount of time our children spend online daily. We must ensure that our children have sufficient time for socialising with friends, reading books, schoolwork, completing homework, physical activity, extracurricular activities, etc.

If not, the following are some of the harmful impacts of excessive screen usage on your children:

  • Weight gain: Increased likelihood of becoming overweight or even obese if the condition persists for an extended period. Screen time involves no physical activity and is frequently accompanied by the consumption of high-calorie snacks. In addition, children dislike taking time away from their computer displays to eat healthy meals. 
  • Sleep problems: Going to bed late and difficulty falling asleep due to obsessive nighttime Internet, video game, and television viewing.
  • Eye strain: It’s probably no surprise that staring at a computer for hours at a time is bad for your child’s eyes. The brightness of the display, coupled with glare, can overtax already tired eyes.
  • Muscle aches: Time spent hunched over a computer or looking down at a device can put a strain on your child’s neck, back and shoulder muscles. When your child holds these positions for long periods of time, they may experience pain and even serious musculoskeletal issues, also called tech neck.
  • Mood disorders: Greater likelihood of developing depression, anxiety, and concentration difficulties, including ADD and ADHD.

Indications your child may develop an Internet addiction

If your child spends too much time on the Internet, they may acquire compulsive tendencies. This can lead to internet addiction, which can be damaging to your child’s health.

How much Internet use is too much for children and adolescents?

  • Children under the age of two should have no screen time at all 
  • Children between the ages of two and ten should have one hour of supervised online time per day
  • Tweens and Teens – No more than two hours per day after completing schoolwork

How to limit your child’s screen time

No one is advocating that children should not have any screen time or Internet access. Nowadays, children and teens require the Internet to conduct research for school tasks. And, when used correctly, it may be a dependable source of knowledge for children who love to read or want to learn more about particular subjects.

The secret is limiting screen time to healthy doses. Here’s five ways you can help reduce your child’s screen time.

  1. Put the device in a visible location: Install the computer in a central position outside your child’s bedroom. Ensure that it is positioned so you can see it as you enter the room.
  2. Secure web browsers: Install software for parental control on your child’s PCs. They will scan searches and websites for inappropriate material. Additionally, sites can be restricted based on your selected protection levels and ensure that your child only views age-appropriate websites.
  3. Be accountable: Set expectations with your kids, and set goals to be intentional about reducing screen time.
  4. Be engaged: After school or work, spend time each day talking face to face with kids and give them your full attention.
  5. Justify your decision to limit screen time: If your children recognise that excessive screen usage has negative consequences, they will be far more inclined to adhere to the rules you establish.

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