Too Much Screen Time? – 4 Signs to Watch for in Your Child

Most children these days are inevitably getting too much screen time. There are so many different devices. They are around us all of the time. Parents can’t help but wonder how to handle this aspect of their child’s life.

We as a society are becoming increasingly aware of the potential dangers of too much screen time. For all of the good that technology has to offer, there are certainly many drawbacks.

In fact, many prominent Silicon Valley parents who work in the field of technology have begun to restrict their own children’s screen use. They recognize that screens can be damaging.

However, the technology is all too new for us to know exactly how much is too much. Moreover, this changes by age, and it varies from child to child. Nevertheless, there are some key signs of overuse:

1. Your Child Is Regularly Overstimulated

Overstimulation is one of the first signs of too much screen time. It is also one of the most common and most prevalent symptoms.

Signs of overstimulation include:

  • Aggression
  • Bouts of crying
  • Can’t sit still
  • Emotional shutdown or seeming to go numb
  • Irritability
  • Meltdowns
  • Oppositional or defiant behavior

Of course, these symptoms of overstimulation can have many causes. Furthermore, there can be some overlap with mental health issues.

For example, a child with high anxiety may get easily overstimulated. As a result, they may not be able to tolerate as much screen time as another child. Too much screen use exacerbates the existing anxiety.

2. Physical Signs of Too Much Screen Time

In addition to behavioral signs of overstimulation, there are some physical signs that parents can look out for.

The first thing is to pay attention to the child’s eyes. Are their eyes dilated after screen time? Do they have trouble making eye contact, especially after using devices? How is their vision?

After all, too much screen time can lead to eye strain and related vision problems.

Additionally, take note of your child’s sleeping habits. In particular, look for the “tired but wired” effect. In other words, the child is tired but can’t sleep, similar to when they have had too much sugar or caffeine. Insomnia is a very common symptom of too much screen time.

Finally, consider any physical ailments. Does your child have headaches and/or muscle pain? Do they have digestive issues? These things can have many causes. You will have to rule them out.

Screen time can be one cause. Devices can also cause repetitive stress injuries, such as Carpal Tunnel, even in children.

3. Your Child Likes Screens More Than People

Take notice of your child’s interactions with others, particularly with peers. Do they enjoy doing things in person with their friends? On the other hand, are most of their “friends” actually people they communicate with primarily or entirely online?

If your child prefers screen time to face-to-face interaction, then they might have too much screen time.

They certainly aren’t alone in this. Social media and texting are popular modes of communication. However, it is important for children to spend time socializing with others in person.

This is how they learn to empathize with others, understand and use nonverbal communication skills, and interact with a diverse range of people. If your child has trouble with these things, limiting screen time may help.

4. Your Child Reacts Poorly to No Screen Time

What happens when you tell your child that it is time to turn off devices? How about if the WiFi goes out?

Some children grumble a little bit then find something else to do. However, if your child is already exposed to too much screen time, then they might not handle this so well.

If your child throws a tantrum, doesn’t know what to do with themselves, or keeps talking about their devices, then they probably need a longer break from the screen.

Child counseling increasingly addresses issues related to too much screen time. Learn more about our services here.