From TVs to mobile phones, we use digital devices constantly in our daily lives. Not forgetting that during the pandemic, most of us stayed home and attended work and/or school via computers and laptops. Screens are everywhere, and they are here to stay.
At the height of the pandemic, parents have been finding different ways to keep their children engaged and occupied at home. Offering children screen time has most likely been one of the options.
Parents might be wondering then: How much screen time is appropriate, and is there a link between screen time and ADHD?
In Canada, the new Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines have recommended less than 2 hours of screen time per day for children 5 and over, and less than 1-hour per day for children aged 2 to 4. Research has also shown that excessive screen time is linked with negative consequences for physical and mental health, such as obesity, increased anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
A recent study of 5-year-olds compared the attention spans of kids who watched less than 30 minutes per day and those who spent more than 2 hours per day. The results showed that children who had more screen time had 7.7 times more chance of meeting the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis (Tamana et al., 2019). For children with ADHD, the pull to screen time is even stronger. Families whose children have been diagnosed reported that the excessive screen time made ADHD symptoms worse, increased triggers of outbursts when kids were forced off-screen, a lack of interest in school and other activities, and sleep problems.
What then can we do to minimize the harmful effects of excessive screen time on our kids?
Exercise and movement: Getting active through physical exercise and movement will do the opposite of passively watching screens. It flips their attention “on” and activates their mind’s main functions, which include memory and impulse control.
Set limits and stick to it: Setting limits on screen time according to the recommended guidelines will allow for more time spent doing other activities, such as getting active and exploring other ways to keep themselves entertained without the need for screens.
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