Please could we have your thoughts on screen time and whether it's possible to limit it to very little?

(97 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 08-Oct-12 20:02:12

We're being asked to comment by radio 5 live on a review of the evidence of the harms involved in children watching TV that's being published tomorrow in Archives of Disease in Childhood, part of the BMJ stable.

The author is suggesting there should be limits - and that under the age of 3 children should have no screen time at all (that's ipads and other computers as well as TVs). Then he says it can be phased in to no more than two hours over the age of 16.

I have to say though aware that too much screen time is undesirable, I'm surprised there aren't positives in limited screen time. Also it's bleedin' hard to control, given how much children love this stuff.

Would be very interested to know your thoughts.

handbagCrab Mon 08-Oct-12 21:44:06

I teach ICT and DH is a software architect, if you limit dc to two hours a day, how are we supposed to earn a living? smile

Anyway, as a child of the 80s I most probably grew up having twoish hours of tv/video/cinema/spectrum/Amiga a day easily. I also read books, played out and rode my bike across the fields.

Technology changes how we interact with the world. I don't think you can make children not interact with the world using technology. It would be nice to know the reasoning behind this idea really.

a 16 year old limited to 2 hours a day is going to struggle, they probably do more than that in school if they do any subject that involves coursework never mind being on their phone, watching tv, maybe even playing a computer game (the horror!) in their spare time.

Perhaps instead of a blanket 'ban' that is impossible to enforce we need to look at what dc are using technology for, is it appropriate, is it safe, is it non addictive, does it reinforce other things dc need to know etc.

Homebird8 Mon 08-Oct-12 21:48:44

We tried screen free days on three days a week (and limited on other days by activities like school, swimming, clubs etc.). The only thing was that it was me too and I found it really hard after a 7pm bedtime for the DCs not to want to collapse with crappy telly myself!

laptopcomputer Mon 08-Oct-12 22:03:53

My DS had almost no tv before the age of 3 (only if it was on at someone elses house) and probably about 4 hours a week now (age 7). I let him have the odd hour on the laptop here and there, perhaps twice a week. No DS. No Playstation, but we do have a Wii he uses perhaps once a week. And he was talking at 18 months, sentences before he was 2 and reading at 4. His teachers consistently comment on what a wide vocabulary and good general knowledge he has.
IMHO very little is learnt from TV, it simply shuts your brain down.

defineme Mon 08-Oct-12 22:04:42

We have 3 kids.We have one tv and one laptop in the house. No smartphones/ipads/ds/whatever. The tv is smallish (19 inch?) and is not in a room that is a thoroughfare.
I've never explicitly limited screen time, but they've always gravitated towards the rooms with their toys in and the garden. They probably watch 20 minutes a day maximum, but often none, family viewing of the odd thing is encouraged by me, but they wander off-we have watched one film as a family to the end in 10 years(close encounters!)!
I love tv, but I watch it to relax when they're in bed. I should limit myself.

UniS Mon 08-Oct-12 22:14:19

It's possible to do, but it needs a whole family approach in my view.

Is the author talking about 2 hours a week or a day for 16 yr olds?

FWIW DS is 6, he does about 15-30 mins of PC time a day at home. We do not have a TV.. He chooses not to watch DVDs at school wet play.

fuzzpig Mon 08-Oct-12 22:16:14

Mine watch too much and I'm desperate to change it. We used to be pretty good - then DH got injured, and I got sick too. There are many times we are physically incapable of doing anything else.

I do think it has affected them negatively. Less attention span etc. I hate this.

fuzzpig Mon 08-Oct-12 22:17:18

They don't have any screens in their room though, I would not allow that until they are old enough to work and pay for it themselves!

Zwitterion Mon 08-Oct-12 22:23:46

I'm not sure I'd want to limit it to be honest. My 2.8 year old is quite computer literate (can operate a mouse, look at photos on iPhone etc). She enjoys short films, Cbeebies etc. It's a huge part of life, is educational, broadens her understanding of the world and as others have said saves my sanity at times. If it proves to be the root of all evil I'm doomed, frankly.

We do lots of other activities but the TV is on for least a couple of hours each day.

5madthings Mon 08-Oct-12 22:25:35

When ds1 was little we didnt have tv for a while but then i had ds2 and i needed it for all the ebenings sat bfeeding!

Can i ask this no tv before age 2/3 does this apply to babies so no having the tv on when bfeeding? That kept me sane! And i will put the tv on to catch up on news stories etc.
We do.limit it but it is hard with an age range of 13yrs down to 21mths. The 13, 10 and 7yr old all get homework that is online on a vle for the primary age ones or mathletics etc and ds1 at high school has to.do stuff online and submitt it online etc.

No tv in the mornings here but i do let them.veg out a bit after school. They play at the park after school.or have clubs so its often 5pm when we get in and then they will watch tv whilst i cook dinner etc. or they may go on the xbox/wii/ps2. I.limit games consoles.more as the boys can get a bit hyper if they are on them for too long so 40-60mins max. Ds1 self regulates and rarely uses them tbh.

During the weel they prob dont get much more than an hour a day screen time actually. But at wkends they get more ie a film, some games console time eetc. We have one tv in sitting rm and one upstairs but the uostairs one is limited channels wise and mainly used for dvds. I am strict abouy what i let them watch ie content wise but the elder two love myth busters etc. Ds3 and ds4 love the lego ptogrammes ie the lego hero or lego starwars cartoons. Dd 21mths is a big ben and holly fan!

Its everything in moderation tbh, thete are def phases when they watch more tv or they get a new game for the xbox so play a lot and then othertimes they dont play on them or watch tv at all.

I do think it us part of life and they use them.in svhool etc, hell ds4's pre-school had ipad type things they used sometimes!

I wont be getting my knickers in a twist about the recomendations and certainly once you have more than one child its much harder to stop little ones watching it. i cant banish my toddler becaysevthe boys want to play mario kart etc!

horsebiscuit Mon 08-Oct-12 22:38:51

Let's be completely honest, there is often a choice in this household. I can have DD1, hysterically crying from tiredness after school, weeping under my feet as I desperately try to cook dinner while bf a baby. Or one hour tucked up on the sofa, sometimes with me chatting about mountain gorillas, watching Andy's Wild Adventures and My Story etc
I know which is better for both of our mental health and general happiness. Plus, kids need variety. Lots of different activities, of which TV is one.
I would worry more about homes where the telly is on as background constantly. Plus DD1 reports watching three different TV programmes at school today (Mike the Knight etc- not educational stuff) - what's that about confused. BTW, are adults to be restricted to two hours too? If so my MN habit means I'm waaaay over.

We don't have TV, so DS doesn't see any. If I put a DVD on my laptop for him, he tends to use it as background to his games, and doesn't actually watch it.

kuros Mon 08-Oct-12 22:41:38

I have 2 primary age children. We have one TV and a laptop; nothing else. Screen time has never really happened for us. They are busy doing the old fashioned things kids did in the pre-screen era. Screen activities take up very little time, since school went back in September maybe 7 hours/week, less in the holidays.

DC1 has no real interest in the TV shows/iPads/games consoles some of her friends are into but I think DC2 would quickly become an addict if allowed. They have never had the option of unlimited TV etc., eg. they watch just the one DVD in a session. When it´s over it´s over.

Both kids are doing very well academically and socially. I´m not worried about this choice having any kind of negative effect.

But I see a lot of negatives in unlimited screen use. People in general, not just kids, seem to withdraw from the world into their screens. Whereas being absorbed in a book may ultimately enrich your experience of the world I have the impression that being engrossed in most screen-based technologies brings no medium or long term benefit. I don´t believe for a moment that all the kids I can see constantly playing with their iPad, mobile, looking on YouTube etc for hours at a time are doing anything remotely educational. It seems more of a tool to avoid interacting with others, something to fiddle or fidget with.

If you think it´s important to limit screen time you can do it. But you have to be quite determined and have the time and energy for alternatives when the kids are young and don´t entertain themselves so easily.

WorraLiberty Mon 08-Oct-12 22:58:25

I think it does depend on their age and what they're watching.

The History Channel, The Geography Channel and so many others are so educational for them...the modern day equivalent of a child sitting with its nose stuck in an encylopedia.

However, I tend to agree with no or very little screen time for the under 3's.

The reason for that is, I'm a Governor at my local Primary school and the Nursery/Reception teachers report every single September that they are taking in less and less verbal children compared to 10 or 20yrs ago.

There's been a steady decline for years and this September was no exception. Interestingly, the teachers said last year that when they did their home visits to over 70 homes, only one home had the TV switched off when they arrived.

steppemum Mon 08-Oct-12 22:59:54

We have always been strict with screen time.
When they were pre-school, they pretty much only watched dvds, no live tv, although we lived where there was no cebeebies. ds had nothing til 2. From 2ish he had about 30 mins after lunch as wind down (we introduced this when he dropped lunch time naps, and ds used to fall asleep in front of it half the time.) Younger dd was having her nap when ds had his dvd so she got no screen time til 2.

youngest dd also kept away until 2 as she was napping. But she has had much more than the others.

Now, aged 9, 7, and 4, they have no tv/screens in morning. They have tv on at 5pm, or can choose computer. We eat at about 5:45 and screens go off.

At weekends they get up and watch tv or computer from 7 am ish until about 9 am. Then no more screens all day.
only ds has a dsi, and he is allowed it at screen time, and occasionally at other times eg in the car.

I do feel strongly about restricting it. But I feel much more strongly about age appropriate viewing. 1 hour of a 15 film is more damaging to a 7 year old than 2 hours unstead of one.

I also feel that you canonly restrict if you yourself don't watch a lot. We don't watch daytime tv, so it is easy to limit time, and then we watch when they are in bed. We have one tv in living room, firm believer in NO tvs in kids bedrooms. Computer is in family room too.

Would be pretty impossible to contain it with wide age range.

zipzap Mon 08-Oct-12 23:02:35

I'd like to know what the evidence behind the suggestions that the author is - and whether or not the author themselves has kids that do/don't watch tv, and why this is (ie was the author biased before going into the study because either they have never had kids and never encountered this problem before, or because they have and have managed to make it work for them).

It seems a huge thing to say no screen time at all for the first three years and I can't see how s/he can possibly have done a statistically valid study to draw such suggestions.

With all these things I reckon it's a case of moderation - choosing age appropriate programmes and not spending too long in front of the screen. I definitely think that both dc have benefited from programmes they've watched - simple counting and sums, letters, dancing, following stories through, watching slapstick humour, empathising with characters, developing favourite programmes and understanding that your brother likes different things so you need to share the tv time, you can't always watch what you want...

Lots of the things that the dc like are actually old things - Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, TinTin, Asterix, Mickey Mouse, Paddington, the Clangers - these things have stood the test of time for good reason. There are new things they love too - Phineas and Ferb, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Deadly 60, Horrible Histories, Art Attack and more.

When they watch something that is interesting to them they learn - ds1 is forever spouting animal or history or geography facts that he has picked up from the tv (he also likes adult documentaries on wildlife or how things are made or big interesting engineering projects etc) - he soaks it all up like a sponge and being able to see stuff on screen helps so much more with remembering things. It's a long way from being able to go 'through the round window' on Playschool which was about as much factual stuff as you got in my day (showing my age now!) until you were old enough for Blue Peter.

They are happy to sing and dance along to songs, copy art projects, be amazed by the fantastical projects that Phineas and Ferb undertake or count along with Mickey and friends. COuld I do that with them - some of it, maybe - but all of it, all of the time? No.

Both boys are happy whizzing around on the iPad and iPhone (as well as on computers and games such as the Wii) - and this will stand them in good stead in later life as they will have grown up using technology without any fear, with a healthy ability to explore and use it - and in years to come I hope that they will be able to see amazing ways in which to develop it that just won't have occurred to our generations.

The only time that I do get worried is by the fact that when the dc play with the iPad or iPhone, they tend to hold it on their lap. I always switch off wi-fi and the phone signal, and I do try to encourage them to put it on a cushion or table, or to lie on the sofa so it is in front of them rather than on them, but you just never know what long periods of exposure to whatever radiates from the devices will do to them or their fertility in years to come. And I don't think that people are going to know until it is too late, maybe not until their children are born from what I understand of epigenetics. (Yes it would be nice to be able to get a nice lead shielded case for kids to use with such devices just in case - I know I'll probably get labelled OTT but I suspect that in years to come people will be shocked by how lax we are about this). However I suspect that this is not an aspect that is covered in the study per se if it is concerned about screen time rather than proximity to screens.

I also know that too much time looking at screens that are too close when their eyesight is developing can mean that they don't develop their full range of visual acuity (my psychology degree was a long time ago now so I'm a bit rusty on this!) but from what I understood at the time, as long as there is still a reasonable amount of exposure to looking at things at all different distances then you should be fine.

TeWiDoesTheHulaInHawaii Mon 08-Oct-12 23:09:59

Limits that strict are just unrealistic. How do you stop your naturally curious toddler from ever looking at your smart phone, and why would you want to?

We are a tech friendly house, that means it's limited and supervised but treated positively. I have a 3yo that can type, use a mouse of touchpad. (she can write her name with a pen too) as far as we're concerned that's good, she can use a computer the next few years will mostly be about learning to use common programmes, leaving plenty of educational years left to learn all the things her generation will need to know. There needs to be a much greater emphasis on technical ICT skills like programming or as a country we will be left behind.

Educational games are no replacement for chatting to your child about letters and numbers but they work well alongside through sheer repetition and encourage independent learning and problem solving.

Sitting around doing nought but watching spiderman and playing fruit ninja isn't going to be all that great for development. But that isn't all that screen time is.

Using technology, engaging with media and the arts can be a wonderful, positive, inspiring thing, in far too many ways to mention, treating it as dangerous us extremely foolish and quite sad really.

TeWiDoesTheHulaInHawaii Mon 08-Oct-12 23:16:07

By the way - I'm 25, generation Y apparently, they did some research a while back that amongst other things growing up with the internet and screens meant our brains were wired slightly differently. Amongst other things; we're naturally better at skimming to pick out important information and being concise.

I think that's pretty handy!

crackcrackcrak Mon 08-Oct-12 23:33:03

Awwww why don't you!!

I limit screen time quite easily. Dd watches about 30 minutes of cbeebies in the morning while I do things and sometimes a bit in the afternoon. I only allow cbeebies as I don't approve of the adverts on other channels.
I don't have an iPad and dd (3) shows no interest in my laptop.
However, we are out if the house most if the day in most days. If we were at home more I would find it more difficult that saying that, dd switches off the telly quite often if she dislikes the programme and trots off to find me of her playroom etc

Emerald6 Mon 08-Oct-12 23:36:34

We don't have a tv but our nearly three year old watches it at nursery sometimes and she watches iplayer or a dvd every now and then at home.
She never seems that bothered about it and will always choose 'helping' in the kitchen or getting outside if there's a choice.

However, when we go to grandparents house which is about once a month the tv is often on in the background, people are sat in front of it whilst also on their phones or ipads, its screen overdose! It will hold her attention for about 20 mins but then she wanders off.

Asmywhimsytakesme Mon 08-Oct-12 23:40:56

We've managed to largely stick to the no tv under 2 rule at our house as we don't watch tv at all ourselves. Ours is 15 months and hasn't seen tv at all except for:

- tv on in a soft play cafe where we go around once a month and in gym where we go x 3 per week to swim (too high for dc to watch really, luckily)
- tv weirdly left on at someone's house at a bf support group meeting.
- tv left on during play dates
-tv left on at my parents

I don't know anyone who has a child who watches less tv than ours does. Can't see how I could have avoided the screen exposure unless I was prepared to avoid the pool and soft play and tell friends and family to turn off their tvs, which i wouldn't do - too pfb smile

So I would say it is perfectly possible to keep to the recommendations but you have to be very determined and even non telly watchers like us find it hard as other family members/friends have it on so often and wall mounted tvs in public places are now so common.

gelo Mon 08-Oct-12 23:56:41

I'm sure it is possible to limit it, but in the modern world it's not very normal to and I'm not entirely sure it's desirable to either. My dc have grown up doing a range of things in their spare time including screen time. One has grown increasingly fond of/addicted to computer games & programming activities to the point where he spends a lot of time on his computer and is by most definitions a computer geek. At a recent programming competition he attended the test tasks were 5 hours long, so clearly just doing 2 hours at a time wouldn't be adequate preparation. I have to say, I tend to think the skills he's learned will be pretty useful in life so I'm not too bothered as long as it's not done to the exclusion of all else (which it isn't).

CelineMcBean Tue 09-Oct-12 00:11:51

I am curious what the supposed harm and impact are.

My child was almost deaf and consequently mute until he was 3. He only started taking an interest in screens and conincidentally books when he could hear and communication verbally. Before that his attention for such things was very limited. He might have watched a short you tube clip about a train or a car.

He has been interested in letters, numbers, shapes and drawing on my iPhone for a while. He also likes nature programmes and we look things up together online such as how to milk a cow to help him understand the world. Seeing things moving and hearing sounds has a positive effect on his learning.

If I left any child alone to interact with just a screen or just a book for hours on end I don't think that would be healthy. Screens are not evil if used thoughtfully and in moderation.

Woozley Tue 09-Oct-12 00:24:05

I think with under threes, not many of them would sit still for long enough to watch TV for long periods anyway. Also you have to look at the bigger picture of the advantage to parents of having them engaged by something which is not you for a little while, making for happier parents and happier children. I am never a fan of banning things altogether, it just makes for forbidden fruit.

Nor am I comfortable with so-called experts telling me what limits are acceptable. Based on some dodgy research usually. I take it all with a pinch of salt. If you can look at your kids and and see they are happy, healthy, doing well at school then I don't really need an expert telling me something is "wrong".

MaryZed Tue 09-Oct-12 00:47:31

I have just seen this.

No more than two hours at the age of 16?

Let me just say Ha Ha. Yes hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahabloodyha <hollow laugh>

[unhelpful]

CelineMcBean Tue 09-Oct-12 00:53:42

Do we know the reasons for this researcher's opinions? Or is it just that he has never met any children?

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