According to Hootsuite’s 2021 Global Report, South Africans spend the 4th most amount of time online in the world, coming in at an average of 10 hours and 6 minutes online daily. This estimate has understandably risen in recent years provided we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and many students are engaging in distance learning, but as a whole, our country has considerably upped their screen-time.

So, what would be considered a healthy amount of time to be spending online?

Our youngsters are spending in excess of three hours a day partaking in recreational activities online, more than an hour over the daily recommended screen-time. Official recommendations for screen-time in school age-children is two hours a day, 1 hour a day for pre-schoolers and no recreational screen-time for children under the age of 2. This doesn’t include time spent online for educational purposes, such as distance learning and research. These guidelines are in place to preserve the mental and physical health of our children.

Why is excess screen-time a bad thing?

Though many parents may not realise it, excessive use of digital devices can have negative effects on both the mental and physical health of their children, and although it may be convenient, excessive screen-time is also not a good thing for adults.

Engaging in too much sedentary time, such as watching TV or playing video games, leads to a lot of inactivity which can be a risk factor in obesity. Due to a lack of activity, the heart can also be put at risk, leading to a higher risk of diabetes and blood pressure problems.

Being exposed to an excess of blue light, the light emitted by electronic devices, can disturb the brains sleep cycles. So, spending too much time on your device before bedtime can result in sleep problems. To avoid this, it is recommended that you put down your devices at least an hour before going to bed and keep them out of your bedroom altogether.

When we spend time on our devices, we are more often than not looking down. Therefore, long hours on devices can result in chronic neck pain, and if you spend hours on the computer, chronic back pain, too. Take often breaks from your devices to stretch your legs, neck and back, and ensure the chair that you use for your computer adequately supports your back.

Lastly, excessive usage of digital devices can have damaging effects on your mental health. Too much time online can result in feelings of depression and anxiety. Social media is the main culprit of this, especially in teenagers. The pressure to be perceived as perfect online can be extremely stressful for everyone, but especially for adolescents just trying to fit into a world they don’t yet understand.

It is highly recommended that you, as a parent, set an example by reducing your own screen-time. You should set aside time as a family to unplug and engage with each other, encouraging your children to be present in the moment. There are parental controls that you can make use of, setting time limits on apps and social media networks to ensure that your children don’t exceed their allocated screen-time. Screen-time management may be perceived as a difficult task, but the benefits vastly outweigh the difficulties, so make it a priority to protect your families mental and physical health by taking measures to reduce the time you all spend in front of a screen.