A new research study has shown that while screen time has negative effects on child development, those effects can be somewhat balanced by spending time outside.
The damage caused by screens on young brains
While we all know that too much time spent on tablets, phones or gaming systems is negative for kids, it can be difficult to tell exactly what the effects are. The new research shows that using screens for over 1 hour per day at age 2 results in lower communication and daily living skills at age 4.
However, children who play outside regularly will have this developmental damage alleviated. This finding adds to existing research showing that there are many benefits for children in spending daily time outdoors.
Screen time: how much is unhealthy?
In the UK the average child uses screens for around 6 hours per day. Those 6 hours will usually involve a mixture of mobile phone use, gaming and watching tv.
There is no hard and fast rule about how much screen use parents should allow children, however many parents set boundaries around the amount of time kids spend on tech.
Some ways to do this could include having no phones at the dinner table, no gaming or phones allowed in bedrooms, or setting a limit of 1-2 hours of use of all tech per day.
As found in the research study, the effects of screen time can be mitigated by spending time outdoors.
The need for daily fresh air
Time spent outside has a myriad of benefits for children and teens alike. This is why many schools now include forest school sessions or orienteering as part of their learning. Furthermore, spending time outdoors also boosts children’s happiness and gives them the opportunity to exercise.
Getting children outside has also been proven to build confidence, encourage creativity and reduce stress.
It can sometimes seem difficult to get kids to spend enough time outdoors, particularly during the grey winter months. Some ways to get around this might include:
- wrapping up warm and going for walks in the forest, collecting leaves or making dens
- walking in nature reserves, aiming to spot birds and wildlife
- making dens in the woods
- joining a local sports team
- looking for fossils in the beach
- trying out geocaching
- meeting friends to play football.
Ideally, aim for at least 1 hour of time outside per day. Wellies and waterproofs will help them have fun even in rainy weather or on muddy ground.