When it comes to using phones and other devices, most studies revolve around children overusing them.
Cook Children’s Walsh Ranch Pediatrician Dr. Anita Singh said electronic devices can have a huge impact on children.
“I believe children have the beauty of expanding their knowledge and skills with whatever they interact with the most. Electronic devices such as iPads, TV, phones and video games can have a huge impact on their lives but also can create a loss of interactive and active play that are crucial for growth,” Singh said. “Personally, I notice that children who start using electronic devices young continue to use them as they grow and are immersed in them to where they are hard to engage with, whether it be with me, parents or social settings such as school, friends or birthday parties.”
Parents spend nearly the same amount of time on their devices as their children, according to research from The Genius of Play, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of play in child development.
The results of a survey of 2,000 parents of school-aged children ages 5 through 18 suggest that families should be finding more screen-free ways to spend time together. Half of the survey’s respondents have been asked by their child to put their phone away, and 79 percent believe that their relationship with their children would benefit if everyone spent less time on devices.
“Screens and tech can make up some of your playtime, but parents should be mindful of creating balance,” Ken Seiter, marketing and communications employee of The Toy Association, the organization that spearheads TGP, said. “A wide variety of toys and games will help create rich childhood memories, lead to optimal physical, cognitive and social-emotional development and nurture critical skills like creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.”
About 74 percent of parents worry their child spends too much time starting at a screen, with the majority of parents limiting their child’s screen time to about two hours per day, according to TGP.
Survey results included:
• About 62 percent of parents admitted to spending too much time on their cell phone while with their children.
• About 69 percent feel “addicted” to their phone.
• Parents spend almost as much one-on-one time with devices as with their kids. They are spending an average of two hours and 17 minutes of personal time on their phone per day, compared to two hours and 41 minutes of quality, screen-free time with their children.
The survey also found that while parents worry about the amount of screen time kids are getting, technology is now an integral parenting tool:
• The majority of parents — 83 percent — agree screens and technology are necessary when raising a child in this day and age.
• Parents use screen time to keep their child occupied (58 percent), as a reward (53 percent) and to help their child calm down when they’re upset (52 percent). In addition, taking screen time away is used as a consequence (63 percent).
“Parents often complain that it’s hard to get kids to put down devices, but they can set a positive example by swapping some of their own screen time for other types of play,” Seiter said.
Singh said parents should have family time often.
“Parents should prioritize creativity and have family time often. During this day and age where time seems to move at lightning speed, it is great to step back and take some time to live in the moment with one’s family,” Singh said. “I encourage families to do activities together, whether it is board game night, puzzles, reading books out loud to each other or arts and crafts. These times create a beautiful bond between the families and keep the kids and parents engaged.”
Singh said a healthy media plan for families can be found by visiting healthychildren.org. The site features a create-your-own media plan and a media time calculator that families can fill out.
“As electronics have had a great role in the ease of life in many areas, I would encourage families to make sure they do not take over one’s life,” Singh said. “It is easy for a family to sit around a TV and watch a movie or show, but making this a daily routine can impact the development of the child and family in a negative way. Mindful use of media is key and I would encourage families to use this website to create a healthy media plan for the family.”
For additional information or tips, visit thegeniusofplay.org.