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  • Writer's pictureDr Martine Prunty


Updated: Sep 29, 2021

We are all aware that screens have become a part of everyday life so it is important to understand their impact on your children so that you are able to make decisions about how to use them appropriately.

Negative consequences

Due to how captivating screen activity can be, it can be difficult for children to take their attention off the screen. Secondly, there are vision and health consequences due to poor posture, screen distance and brightness, dry eyes and eye irritation, neck and back ache. Another issue which can arise is difficulty sleeping due to the use of a bright screen in the 2 hours before bed time as this can influence the release of the hormone, Melotonin, which is what makes us tire and want to fall asleep. There has also been research that says that the blue light emitted by LED screens can cause irreversible damage to the retina which increases the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. Remember that too much screen time can have a negative impact on the development of language and social skills as they are not experiencing the real-life interaction required to learn these skills.

The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that:

· children under 18 months should avoid screen time, other than video-chatting – eg Facetime, Skype

· children aged 18 months to 2 years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they’re seeing

· children aged 2-5 years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them

· children aged 6 years and older should have consistent limits on the time they spend on electronic media and the types of media they use.

What can you do?

· Limit screen time to one hour per day for small children and 2 hours per day for children in school (who may need to use screens to complete homework). Further, break this time block up to reduce eye strain.

· Encourage playing outdoors to counteract the sedentary lifestyle that screens promote and to ensure they are interacting physically with other children which is important for the development of good social skills. Playing outdoors also helps children develop their long distance vision, which reduces the chance of myopia (short-sightedness).

· Ensure they get adequate sleep – pre-schoolers require approximately 12 hours of sleep each night. This also aids the eye to recover from strain.

· When using screens the eyes should be at least 50cm away from the screen.

· Ensure screen time use is quality by previewing programs and apps. Seek out options that require interaction, not just pushing or swiping. Make sure you filter internet content to ensure safety of inappropriate content and have your child close by so that you can supervise them.

· Have a family rule about when screen time is/is not permitted. For example not during meal times or in bedrooms.

· When screen time is not in use, keep it out of sight.

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