Does Your Child Really Need That Screen?

Does Your Child Really Need That Screen?

In this age of technology, it is probably difficult for kids of all ages to imagine life without smart phones and tablets. But the parents of these kids can probably remember surviving without all of these things, and they also recall the sound that dial-up internet used to make.

The Huffington Post published an article titled 10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12. Although this article came out at the end of 2015, the evidence for a screen-free childhood remains sobering.

The guidelines for screen time have been updated in the last year (particularly for kids 2 years and under), and are currently as follows:


  • Children under 18 months old: No exposure to screens, other than video-chatting, e.g. spending time on Skype or FaceTime with family living far away.
  • Children 18 months – 2 years old: Only exposure to good quality content or apps if they are doing it with an adult, who is engaging with them to help them understand what they are seeing.
  • Children 2-5 years old: Less than 1 hour of screen time per day, although less is better.
  • Children and adolescents 5-18 years old: Not more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day; lower levels are more beneficial for health and well-being.

The author of the Huffington Post article provides a compelling argument for no hand-held screens for under 12’s, and here are her reasons (backed up by research):


  1. Over-exposure to screens in 0-2 year olds messes with some aspects of cognitive development at a crucial time of brain development.
  2. Technology restricts movement, and moving less has a detrimental effect on learning (and physical health).
  3. Kids who have a device in their bedroom are 30% more likely to be obese, as found in countries like the US and Canada.
  4. Screen time, when not supervised by parents, can steal precious time from sleep. Sleep is essential for a growing and developing child.
  5. Excessive screen time has been linked to a range of mental health conditions in children. This includes (but is not limited to) depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, and bipolar disorder.
  6. Violent media content has been associated with aggression in children. In the US, media violence is now listed as a Public Health Risk.
  7. Attention, concentration and memory are negatively impacted by high-speed media content. This doesn’t set children up well for learning.
  8. Busy parents who detach from their children run the risk of having their children attach to devices. This can contribute to addiction.
  9. There is greater concern about the radiation emission of cell phones. Children are particularly sensitive to these risks, more so than adults.
  10. Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology.

To read the full article, head this way.


By Dr Catherine Draper 

Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town at the Sports Science Institute of SA