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Screen Time – Parents Need to Set a Good Example for Millennials

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The idea of young adults having screen time is a totally new phenomenon, because handheld smart devices have only been around for a short space of time. For this reason, there is still ongoing research on the subject as psychologists attempt to figure out what the limits should be.

Some research suggests that moderate gaming time is beneficial, while others have found that staring at a screen for prolonged periods can be harmful. Whatever a parent’s stance on the matter, setting an example to their offspring, however old, is the best way to lay the ground rules when it comes to screen time.

The young adults of today are spending a lot of time glued to screens. Whether they’re watching television, typing on a computer, or tapping the screen of an iPad, they are never far away from technology.

In 2015, a study from Provision Living found that millennials were spending an average of 5.7 hours a day on their phones – though baby boomers weren’t far behind, with an average of 5 hours a day spent scrolling. Many organisations have concluded that screen time has almost doubled over the last 10 years, which is obviously concerning for a lot of parents.

People who are against this prolonged screen time usually tout the displacement hypothesis, which says that if people are spending time on a screen they are unable to do other useful things. For example, university students who spend too much time gaming would have less time for coursework. It has also been argued that too much screen time can lead to obesity and poor development of social foundations.

At university, it’s so important to have a good friendship network. However, others would argue that a lot of the time young adults spend online is used to gain skills in other fields that are more relevant to their progression. For instance, they could be partaking in graphic design or doing research for a university project.

When it comes to screen time for pleasure, such as gaming, most parents would agree that gaming is a luxury and needs to be kept to a minimum. But if parents are spending a lot of their time looking at screens as well and – while they’re still living at home – their offspring could argue that it isn’t fair.

To set a good example, parents can try to reduce their screen time. This can be done by playing short, quick-fire games instead of in depth narrative-heavy titles. For example, there are thousands of slot games online with free spins bonuses. See for yourself, there are lucrative no sign-up bonuses to take advantage of. In addition to this, there are plenty of other pick-up-and-play mobile games as well, that places like the App Store and Google Play Store are abundant with. They’re quick, ‘pick me up for five minutes’ games that can be stopped and started whenever something else requires your attention.

It could also be a good idea for parents to opt for traditional newspapers rather than read the news from a tablet or smartphone. The average adult in the US spends 5 hours and 16 minutes per day with digital media. Again, not a great example to be setting up for the incoming adults of today.

Parents need to be accepting that millennials will spend some time online, as it will help them become technically savvy and foster the skills required in the modern world. But there should be a limit; because staring at a screen for too long could be harmful in more ways than one. To lead by example, parents could minimise the time they spend looking at a smartphone or tablet and adapt the ways in which they source entertainment.

Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh.  She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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