Impact of Screen Time at Home and School on Students

Screens are now an integral part of kids' daily lives. Inside the home, children play video games or browse social media. At school, kids use devices on playgrounds or between classes. Some schools have integrated laptops and digital whiteboards into their classrooms and teaching methods, enhancing interactions between the teacher and student and making the learning experience positive. Though screen time has become an integral part of a child's development, it may still be important to encourage kids to use screen time healthily.

Is All Screen Time the Same?

Not all screen time is the same. There are a few differences among the various types of screens humans interact with daily. From smartphones to laptops, tablets or smartwatches, the type of screen changes a child's daily electronic usage.


In a survey, 97% of respondents with kids age 8 and younger had smartphones. Tweens and teens usually use phones to watch shows, go on social media or play games on apps. Children who do not have their own devices may borrow a family member's to watch videos or play games. One of the most widely used electronic devices, cell phones are great for social interaction and can provide endless information to the user.


Students can use computers in classrooms to enhance learning and allow easier access to research materials or writing applications. Children can also interact with computers at home, where parents may allow their kids access to games or TV shows or when students use take-home laptops to complete homework.


Tablets or iPads may be used at school to enhance learning and are often used during remote learning to assist with teaching and virtual classes. Children may also interact with tablets to play games or use creative apps for drawing and coloring.


Watching TV at home is a popular pastime for children. Watching the television can count toward passive screen time, but educational shows or interactive TV options can assist in reducing inactivity.

Gaming Systems

Children can play games online using a computer, phone or tablet. They might also play on consoles connected to a TV display, meaning video games come in a variety of screen time formats.

Types of Screen Time

Children will encounter various types of screen time throughout their development. Understand the different aspects of each type to learn how best to encourage healthy screen time in a child's life. The five types of screen time include:

1. Social

Social screen time connects children with their family members or friends and is great for staying in touch with long-distance relatives or friends who have moved away. The most common forms of social screen time use social media, texting or video calls with Facetime, Skype or other platforms to communicate with others.

While this screen time focuses on communication and personal connection, high levels of social media interaction can eventually displace real-world interactions. Social screen time can cause poorer mental health over time.

2. Passive

Passive or inactive screen time focuses on the consumption and entertainment aspects of media. Children and adults use inactive screen time when looking for quick entertainment or a relaxing experience.

Examples of inactive screen time include:

  • Browsing social media: Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram might cause passive consumption through the constant output of entertainment.
  • Watching YouTube videos: YouTube might offer endless entertainment with videos that encourage continuous screen time.
  • Browsing the web: Going online could be inactive screen time if kids use the internet without accessing critical research documents or intellectually stimulating websites.
  • Watching TV or streaming services: Watching services like Netflix or Hulu for long periods can be considered inactive consumption.
  • Playing games: Some games don't require much critical thinking, problem-solving or social interaction and might be passive gaming.

Passive consumption can sometimes cause anti-social behavior and limits the interactions children might have with other peers and friends. There is no physical benefit to passive screen time, and the effects can be detrimental to a child's development when used in excess.

3. Interactive

Interacting with the real world through a device like a phone or laptop counts as interactive screen time. For example, certain apps help identify songs heard during an outing, or a nature app can help you identify different animals while taking a hike.

Interactive apps and websites often document information or keep schedules and positively affect educational outcomes. Students can also use this form of screen time during school lessons to enhance learning. Interactive screen time often positively affects learning and promotes education and critical-thinking skills.

4. Educational

The impact of screen time on students who use educational content is often positive. Educational content used at school or at home can provide an enriching experience that focuses on education through enhanced visuals and auditory learning. Students studying or doing homework can also benefit from educational content to assist them in solving problems or memorizing information.

5. Creative

Other screen time can involve the creative usage of media and phone apps. Examples of creative screen time include:

  • Learning a skill: Find a DIY website or use a YouTube tutorial to have interactions away from the screen.
  • Coding: Make a website or develop an app to engage with problem-solving and cause-and-effect skills.
  • Making music: Use digital music developers to create new music and express creativity.
  • Playing games: Play puzzle games or problem-solving games to engage the brain.
  • Digital photography: Take and edit photos online for an artistic outlet.
  • Editing videos: Edit videos using an app and post them online to understand storytelling.
  • Writing a blog post: Create a website and write blog posts about hobbies or other interests to act as a digital journal.

Creative screen time may be beneficial for the user's imagination and intelligence. It encourages learning new skills through online classes or DIY videos and helps children problem-solve through creative trial and error.

Impact of Screen Time on Kids

The various usages of screen time may impact kids differently. Learning the effects of social media, interactive screen time and educational videos can help you understand how children can best use screen time in healthy ways. These impacts can be both positive and negative.

Social Media Impacts

The negative impacts of social media are prevalent among children and teens. The online world is often confused with reality and increases screen time usage among children.

Social media can also be addictive. Due to the fear of missing out on special events or news, young children can grow up with an increased time spent scrolling through social media.

Influencers on Instagram or TikTok may also negatively affect a child's self-image as they develop due to the various beauty and lifestyle standards shared through social media.


Bullying is any act that causes physical or emotional harm to a person. It can place someone in reasonable fear of injury or create an intimidating or hostile environment.

As socialization has moved online, cyberbullying has become prevalent among kids who use the internet. Cyberbullying often involves using technology or electronic communication to send harmful messages to other people. These messages may take the form of signs, signals, comments, pictures, constant calling or even texting the victim.

Negative Effects of Passive Screen Time

Too much idle screen time can have various effects on the brain and body. Learning how to use screen time effectively without causing long-term effects on sleep patterns or social development is essential. Here are a few ways in which passive screen time can negatively affect children:

  • Obesity: Too much screen time can increase the chance of a child being overweight. Having electronics or a television in the bedroom can also affect their inactivity due to overeating from distracting shows or games. When a child doesn't go outside as often or exercise, it may be time to limit screen usage.
  • Irregular sleep patterns: Screen time can cause fatigue and increased napping in children. Blue light can affect sleep patterns by delaying the release of melatonin during bedtime, often leading to insomnia.
  • Behavioral issues: Excess screen time could lead to emotional or social problems. Video games and social media could cause shorter attention spans.
  • Educational problems: Distracting TVs in bedrooms or phones used during homework time can increase media usage and worsen grades.
  • Less time for play: Social media or screen addiction could make it so children have less time for social play or outdoor exercise.
  • Delayed speech development: Too much screen time could cause a delay in speech development in children who watch too many shows or movies.
  • Mental illness: Social media could cause depression and anxiety due to unrealistic standards set on children.

Positives of Screen Time

While the negative aspects of social media and device use are something to keep in mind when it comes to a child's development and mental health, there are several positives to consider. For example, social media helps children connect with family and friends and maintain lasting relationships with others. It can also be great for online learning, content discovery or interactions with creators and artists.

Social media may also encourage children to get involved in civic engagement through fundraising and social awareness campaigns. Sites like LinkedIn and Indeed are also great tools for job finding and building connections for employment opportunities for teenagers. Children and teens can find community and inclusivity among content forums and social media groups that exchange information on hobbies or favorite activities.

Educational vs. Non-Educational Screen Time

Educational screen time can be effective compared to passive or non-educational screen time. Due to the rise of virtual learning, educational videos have become a popular way to help kids learn new information. Educational shows and screen tools in school can create a positive experience and help kids enjoy learning. It can also prepare children for future learning from a young age through digital literacy.

While non-educational screen time can be passive or inactive, educational screen time encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills through creativity and focused learning. Children can also develop their art skills by making videos or learning to draw or write online. Communication skills see improvement through online educational content, with online peers and teachers helping students to use digital educational elements to promote better learning.

What Does Healthy Screen Time Look Like?

There are several ways to integrate healthy screen time practices into a child's life. Children should use screen time in moderation along with educational and interactive content for optimal learning and development. Here are a few ways that children can practice healthy screen time:

  • Eliminate background TV: Make it a habit to learn information or create content without visual distractions.
  • Keep screens out of the bedroom: Improve sleeping patterns by lowering screen usage before bed.
  • Don't eat in front of the screen: Lessen excess food consumption by eating without distractions.
  • Plan what a child sees: Ensure children consume educational and appropriate content.
  • Watch media together: Watch shows and videos with kids to promote critical thinking skills.

Active Screen Time

Active screen time involves using educational apps and engaging in games with children. Children can also remain active during screen time through creative means such as crafts, art or painting. Exercising while watching a show is also a great option to help improve motor skills and boost creativity. Active screen time focuses on developing close family relationships through dynamic viewing and promotes education through interactive learning.

How to Lower Screen Time at Home

Lower a child's screen time when they are at home. Though this may seem complicated, follow these steps to ensure a healthy relationship with social media and screen usage:

  • Set expectations: Ensure children understand the household rules associated with screen time.
  • Be lenient: Understand that kids sometimes go over their screen time or forget the rules.
  • Engage with kids: Work on a puzzle, play a game or enjoy other screen-free activities together to encourage communication skills.
  • Put phones away for periods: Encourage outside play and phone-free playing spaces.
  • Go outside: Spend time at the playground or walk in a park.
  • Create phone-free spaces: Make the dinner table or the bedroom a phone-free space.

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