5 Signs of “Too Much” Screen Time

Balancing our children’s screen time can be tricky- especially right now. Many parents are working from home, while their children are also home while camps and activities have been cancelled due to COVID-19. When juggling the demands of life, screens can be a lifesaver when everyone is at home all day, with limited places to go. Even when we think we are choosing high-quality, age-appropriate content, balancing outside time and exercise, and being positive media mentors (discussing what they are doing online, watching alongside them), our kids still might completely lose it when “screentime” is over for the day. Or when we ask them to put their phones away. Or to stop playing Fortnight. If you’ve seen the meltdown, you know what we are talking about…

Common Sense Media recently came out with a list of 5 Warning Signs That Your Kid May Be Suffering From Screen Overload:

1. Inappropriate outsized reactions. We’ve all seen the extreme behaviors — meltdowns, defiance, irritation, or just bouncing off the walls — that kids exhibit at times after screen use. Some parents blame fast-action games like Fortnite, but really anything could trigger this behavior. Kids simply don’t always have the language — or the patience — to explain what’s happening to them, so they tell you by acting out.

2. Headaches. Has your kid complained of headaches or trouble seeing? It could be their eyes. Vision problems, eye fatigue, and eye strain can cause real pain — and could be a sign that kids are doing too much “near work,” such as reading or overdoing the screens. Check for watery eyes, squinting, or kids rubbing their eyes a lot.

3. Trouble sleeping. If your kid isn’t sleeping, there’s a chance devices are one of the culprits. Kids may be overstimulated from their devices’ blue light, tired from checking their phones throughout the night, staying up late watching television, distressed by bad news, or having troubling online interactions. Whatever the cause, a good night’s sleep is an essential foundation for many things, including mental well-being, a healthy lifestyle, and keeping kids’ minds alert for learning.

4. Isolation, Sadness, Crying. If your kid is exhibiting these symptoms, negative online experiences could add to their despair. Combined with what some kids are readily exposed to on social media — bullying, hate speech, scary news, and brutal videos — it’s completely natural for them to feel this way.

5. Loss of focus and energy. You know the look: glazed zombie eyes, wishy-washy replies, flitting from thing to thing. While there’s ongoing research exploring whether devices can cause inattention — and even ADHD — it’s more likely that your kid is just, well, acting like kids do when they don’t know what to do with themselves.

Project B3 knows that this is an unprecedented time. We are not judging any families that have had their screen use go up significantly in the past months. But, we wanted to make you aware of the signs that you should be aware of if your child, preteen or teen are overdoing it on screen time. Life is all about balance and that applies to media as well.