Should parents control children’s screen time?

Some experts have called for the time children spend inform of screens to be limited, associating disproportionate amounts of time watching television, gaming or interacting over social media with depression, poor attention span and other psychosocial problems. According to Dr Aric Sigman, writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, the average 10 year old has access to five different screens at home and ‘by the age of seven, a child born today will have spent a full year glued to screens.’

With all this in mind, parents are being urged to curb the amount of time their children spend on the mobile devices, PCs and games consoles. Clearly, there is some merit to the argument that parents should be doing what is best for their children; nobody is disputing this, but there are also problems with these recommendations.

In the news today it is reported that parents have expressed concerns that children are often set homework tasks that either have to be completed online, via a school portal or require use of the internet to complete. Schools often engage in e-learning initiatives as a legitimate engagement with learning technologies and this is often evaluated as part of a wider inspection of teaching and learning. This makes it difficult for parents to block the use of devices and limit screen time.

According to a recent poll commissioned by Webtrate, an internet blocking service, 70 per cent of the parents polled feared that social media distracted from work but 63 per cent said that confiscating smartphones and tablets was futile.

Considering the issue of parents controlling their children’s screen time and internet access from an alternative perspective, some 56 per cent of the parents polled worried that filters would damage their relationship with their children. Others pointed to the importance of young people developing the skill of self-control rather than having filters imposed on them and felt that encouraging young people to understand the need to limit the time they spend in front of the screen and take charge of this themselves was a preferable option.

Ironically, there’s probably an app available to track, block and manage the time you spend on say facebook.

image source: andrewmagill/flickr.com/cc by 2.0//

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