Grandparents allowing kids too much screen time

Children's Health

Grandparents may be spoiling their grandkids, allowing them too much screen time, according to a new study. A team of researchers found that grandparents may be fueling excessive device usage among kids, which has become a growing health concern worldwide.



Image Credit: Bondar Illia / Shutterstock

In a study published in the Journal of Children and Media, the researchers found that grandparents of today are spoiling their grandkids by allowing them, while under their supervision, to spend longer periods of time using gadgets than their parents might otherwise allow. The researchers wanted to see if other caregivers of children influence how much screen time kids experience.

“Studies were mostly based on parents’ reports and ignored other major caregivers, particularly grandparents. Accordingly, this study offers a pioneer exploration of young children’s interactive and non-interactive media use under their grandparent’s care and the factors associated with extensive use,” the researchers explained in the study.

Children spend half of their time on gadgets

The researchers studied the grandparents’ experiences in taking care of children aged between 2 and 7 years old. They found that on an average of a visit lasting for 4 hours, the kids spent two hours either playing games on gadgets or watching videos.

The results show that let the children spend about half of their time on a tablet, computer, television, or mobile phone.

Study findings are alarming

Boys spend more time on gadgets than girls, with 17 minutes more screen time. Other findings show that the grandparents claim they feel less confident in supervising the gadget use of their grandkids than in handling their use of non-interactive videos.

But, the results also show that grandfathers were more likely to allow more interactive screen time than grandmothers. Hence, the researchers suggest that they are more confident and knowledgeable in using technology.

Older children may spend more time on devices than younger ones, and grandparents were more likely to let their grandchildren spend more time on these gadgets if the parents gave instruction on how to use these technologies beforehand.  

Plus, the grandparents let the kids play gadgets or watch videos when they look after the kids in their own homes than when they’re in the children’s houses. They also allow more time spent on gadgets when the kids ring their own device.

Overall, the lowest amount of time dedicated to media use per visit with grandparents was seen among children who are 2 to 3 years old, with only 98 minutes per visit. On the other hand, children who are 4 to 5 years old spend about 106 minutes on gadgets. The age group show spent most screen time are those who are 6 to 7 years old.

Grandparents should set screen time restrictions

“Grandparents play a significant role in raising their grandchildren. We need to educate them about the impact of media on children’s lives and on proper use that will benefit the wellbeing of their grandchildren,” Dafna Lemish, study co-author, said in a statement.

The researchers suggest that grandparents should play a part in teaching kids on responsible device use, by restricting media use. They can do this by setting simple rules on screen time when they are babysitting.

Moreover, grandparents should set firm rules on screen time, which is not more than 1 hour, not during meals, and not before bedtime. This way, they can help reduce screen time among children. For parents, they should provide toys, books, and games to help grandparents babysit and keep the children busy.

“These findings raise concerns regarding young children’s media use under their grandparents’ watch, but also suggest effective strategies for its reduction,” the researches concluded in the study.

Health effects of too much screen time among children

In another recent study, children who spend more time on gadgets and devices are more likely to have health harms, including unhealthy diet, adiposity, depressive symptoms, and decreased quality of life.

Other health problems include anxiety, depression, behavior problems, hyperactivity and inattention, low self-esteem, other mental health problems.

Journal references:

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