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The pros and cons of screen time for children

Are you thinking about investing in a tablet, laptop or games console for your child? Here we will help you weigh up the pros and cons of screen time for children.

By Laura Cooke | Last updated Feb 22, 2024

Let’s face it, screen time has become an integral part of our children’s lives.

But screen time for kids is a double-edged sword - while the best laptop for kids offers a myriad of opportunities for learning and engagement, too much time behind a screen can have a negative impact on behaviour, physical health, and mental wellbeing.

In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons of screen time for children to help parents strike a healthy balance.

Pros of screen time for children

Educational benefits

Numerous educational apps and programs cater to different age groups, aiding cognitive development, improving language skills, and boosting problem-solving abilities.

Interactive educational content can make learning enjoyable, helping to build a positive attitude towards school.

Read next: The best online home learning resources for children of all ages 

Skill enhancement

Screens can provide a platform for children to enhance their digital literacy, which is pretty essential in today's technology-driven world.

Creative apps and games can help to develop critical thinking, creativity, and hand-eye coordination.

Read next: Best tablet for kids: Apple vs. Samsung vs. Amazon

Global connectivity

Screens allow children to connect with friends and relatives all around the world, fostering social bonds and boosting cultural understanding.

Online platforms can also be a valuable resource for collaborative projects and educational exchanges.

Read next: Best Nintendo Switch games for kids: guaranteed fun for all the family

Entertainment and relaxation

We all need time to unwind, and thoughtfully chosen content can serve as a source of entertainment and relaxation, offering kids a much-needed break from the demands of school.

Educational videos and games can be both enjoyable and informative, making learning a fun experience.

Read next: Best kids' headphones: ear-safe options for kids of all ages

Cons of screen time for children

Physical health concerns

Prolonged screen time can contribute to sedentary behavior, potentially leading to health issues like obesity and poor posture.

It is also well-documented that eye strain and disrupted sleep patterns may also arise from excessive screen exposure, affecting kids’ overall wellbeing.

Read next: Best outdoor toys: get your kids active with great toys and games for your garden

Risk of inappropriate content

Unmonitored screen time increases the risk of children finding inappropriate content, including violence, explicit material, or cyberbullying. 

Parental controls and supervision are crucial to minimise these risks.

Read next: The best games console for kids: top picks from Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox

Attention and behavioural issues

Extended screen time, especially on fast-paced or overly stimulating content, may contribute to attention issues and behavioral challenges.

Limiting screen time and encouraging regular breaks from gaming can help maintain a healthy balance.

Read next: The best kids' smartwatches to buy

Social interaction challenges

Excessive screen time may reduce face-to-face social interactions and hinder the development of essential social skills, particularly in very young children. So it’s important to strike a healthy balance between online and offline activities to ensure children engage in a variety of social experiences.

Read next: Best robot toys to make STEM learning come alive

While screen time offers educational benefits and connectivity, it also poses risks to physical health and social development. Striking a balance between screen time and other activities is key to harnessing the positive aspects while minimizing the drawbacks. 

By being mindful of content, setting limits, and promoting a diverse range of activities, parents can ensure that screen time remains a constructive and enriching part of a child's upbringing.

If you are looking for practical advice about how to limit your kids' screen time, check out Mumsnet's guide to Screen time for children: how to manage and limit screen time.

About the author

Laura Cooke is a Content Editor at Mumsnet, with a special focus on child’s play, outdoor play and toddler play content.

Laura started writing Swears By articles for Mumsnet in 2021, writing buyers guides and product reviews to help Mumsnetters make informed choices when it comes to parting with their pennies.

Laura is also a freelance journalist and has written articles for publications including the Daily Mirror, the i, Metro, Stylist and Happiful magazine.