Kids & Technology|July 6th 2022

What are the effects of screen time on children?

The positive and negative effects of screen time on attention, sleep, and behavior may surprise you

by The Lottie Team
Source: Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

We’ve covered the topic of screen time from many angles on this blog already, so this article is going to focus specifically on the positive and negative effects of screen time on children. We’ll examine the effects of screen time on attention, sleep, learning, and other areas of development in a list of 10 different ways that screen time affects kids. For a more general overview of the relationship between screen time and children, check out this helpful guide.

Positive effects of screen time

  1. Access to online resources
    Our screens are the portal to so many incredible resources online that are just a few taps clicks or taps away. Kids can benefit from an ever-growing library of kid-centric educational content including games and videos, plus other content that parents can carefully curate for them to enjoy. Screen time can often be about learning, but doesn’t always have to be, and there are websites, apps, platforms, and games that complement the way kids grow up in 2022. Screen time shouldn’t necessarily replace reading time or time spent with other tools, but it’s still an essential part of growing up.
  2. Balanced lifestyle
    Much of modern youth culture is related to events online or emerging tech, and it’s important for kids to be able to relate to their peers and stay up to date with the culture. As long as kids have a healthy relationship with screens, they’ll be well equipped to process tech and internet culture, stay safe, and reap the benefits of a balanced lifestyle that takes place online and offline. 
  3. School readiness
    Screens are becoming more commonplace in schools and kids have to be familiar with these devices to make the most out of those educational experiences. The prevalence of remote learning from the past few years expedited the need for device and digital literacy among younger kids, and showed how screens can complement, but not replace in-person and analog learning.
  4. Social connectivity
    Staying connected to friends, family, and classmates may be the most important benefit of screen time. Video calling is one of the few examples of screen time that experts say is safe for even the youngest children, and it may help set the stage for healthy screen use in the future. Additionally, social media is becoming increasingly common for older kids and teens, and a thoughtful introduction to safe online engagement will pay dividends as kids grow older and become more involved in the digital world.
  5. Improved developmental skills
    We recently wrote a full article about the surprising benefits of video games, and many of the same benefits apply to screen time in general. When introduced and supervised thoughtfully, children can develop motor skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and more by engaging with their devices. Video games require direct interaction, and can actually encourage children to be more patient and resilient. 

Negative effects of screen time

  1. Reliance and addiction
    The potential for over-reliance on screens for entertainment and even screen addiction are probably the biggest fears when it comes to screen time. Children as young as 8 are already spending an average of 6 hours per day in front of a screen. It’s very easy for screens to become a default source of interaction in our homes, and we’re also guilty of spending too much time with our devices. It’s important to set healthy limits and try to make screen time a conscious part of everyday life. We went into this topic in more detail in this article.
  2. Lack of physical activity
    Let’s face it – we’re usually not moving our bodies that much when we’re enjoying our screen time. Those passive viewing hours can add up quickly and cause physical strain, and bad habits can take years to address. We recommend providing appropriate warming up and cooling down periods from screen time so kids know when it’s enough for the day.
  3. Sleep problems
    In addition to just the time spent in front of screens cutting into sleep, the blue light emitted by screens leads to poor sleep hygiene and difficulty sleeping. If possible, children should avoid screen time at least an hour before bed, and for bedrooms to be screen-free zones as well.
  4. Asocial behavior
    We mentioned the positive aspects of social connectivity and participating in contemporary tech culture, but it’s equally important to monitor asocial behavior as a result of screen time. There isn’t a direct causal relationship between the two in either direction. The content we curate for our kids and the guidelines we set for them make a big difference in achieving positive or negative social outcomes.
  5. Impaired academic performance
    Kids can struggle in school as a result of all the other possible negative effects we mentioned. When children become over-reliant on their screens, experience fatigue, have trouble sleeping, and experience asocial behavior as a result of their devices, their academic performance often suffers. Ultimately, it’s about establishing a healthy balance between time spent with and without screens.