Queensland psychotherapist says parents need to understand the importance of screen time to their children – and the reasons behind it – despite study finding too much time spent on tablets and phones can be harmful to mental health.
- A study released last week found that too much screen time for girls ages 11-15 could be damaging to their mental health
- Queensland psychotherapist says children don’t have the same opportunities to connect in the real world as their parents
- She says it’s crucial to understand what children watch, as well as why and how they feel.
The research results published in The Lancet last week probably didn’t shock parents used to seeing their children engrossed in their phones or tablets.
But clinical psychotherapist Victoria Matthews, who works with teens and children in her Sunshine Coast practice, says too much screen time may not be the problem.
She said unlike previous generations, children are often not allowed to walk around their neighborhood to meet new friends and socialize, so these experiences now occur behind a screen.
“Children lose this aspect of freedom, which means we bring them inside,” Ms. Matthews said.
“They’re staying home, doing their homework, but the socializing that would happen in person is now online.”
FOMO: a teenager’s nightmare
Ms Matthews, who did not dispute the study’s results, said parents’ best intentions could mean they are limiting a critical chance for their children to socialize.
“It used to be all about peer pressure, but now it’s ‘FOMO’, or the fear of missing out,” she said.
“What they fear missing is the conversation that is beyond them and that they are not involved in it.
“It becomes a source of distress for them, because what we don’t appreciate is that this is how they socialize now – and we did that to them.
“We have to be compassionate and say, ‘We actually created the situation because we deprived them of the opportunity to come out. “”
In Australia, recommendations for screen time are a maximum of two hours per day, as well as one hour of physical activity per day.
University of Queensland associate professor Asad Khan, who was part of the latest global study team, said too much screen time can lead to depression and obesity and affect the functioning of the body. brain.
More friends = more support
Ms Matthews said having children away from the screen – during sports or other activities – has also allowed young people to form a variety of friendship groups.
“They develop their self-esteem by interacting with people in multiple environments, not just one,” she said.
“Whereas now they go to school and they always take care of all this until 9 o’clock in the evening.”
Without that extra interaction, Ms Matthews said some might come home and walk straight to a screen.
“They come home, they lay down on the bed, and they just slide and slide, send messages and slide,” she said.
“We can’t take our kids away from this now, we’re too integrated into this way of life.
“But we have to learn, as parents, how to balance this.”
The kids will (probably) be fine
Ms Matthews has said in her practice that she meets young people who are worried about conversations that have yet to take place.
“On Snapchat now, it sends you a message when someone starts typing you,” she said.
“[The client] said, “I was so stressed because I knew they were writing and nothing came up – who is doing that?” “It was new to me.”
Ms Matthews said this is the world teens live in and they deserve more understanding from their parents.
“We cannot invalidate the experiences they are having because it is a lifestyle that they are living that we do not understand,” she said.
Ms Matthews said that of all the young people and parents who come to her Noosa practice, the main thing that worried her was the disconnection rather than the time spent in front of the screen itself.
“The reason the child has retreated into the room is because he disconnects from people,” she said.