On their own? Nothing! In fact, many people find enjoyment in passing time with screens (e.g., TV shows) or building connections with others (e.g., video calls with family members). The problem comes up when the child isn’t doing activities that are expected of them (e.g, learning, time with family and friends) or developing other hobbies due to excessive screen time. It also becomes a problem if screen time negatively affects the way children think (e.g., their attention, statements they make about themselves), the way they feel (e.g., their mood), and their behavior (e.g., imitating inappropriate behaviors they see during screen time, throwing tantrums if they don’t get screen time). Excessive screen time can become an issue for people of all ages, including children and adults!
Screen time can be appropriate when it’s focused on learning (e.g., academic enrichment websites), joint entertainment (e.g., watching a movie together as a family), or connecting with others (e.g., playing an online multiplayer videogame, messaging friends). However, even these activities can become a problem if there aren’t clear expectations about when, where, and how long children can engage in screen time.
Here are some signs to look out for: