Learn how you can set healthy limits
The verdict is in: More than half of all kids ages 8 to 12 have their own cell phone. Kids ages 5 to 16 are spending six and a half hours per day in front of a screen, more than double the amount of screen time just 20 years ago. And 38% of children under 2 use a mobile device for media.
Reducing screen time for kids has been a hot topic in the current digital age, but you might be surprised to learn that the debate behind its effects has been going on long before smartphones and tablets emerged.
For decades, scientists and health advocates alike have cautioned parents that spending too much time in front of television screens links to childhood obesity, poor sleep habits, and social or behavioral issues. These dangers are still highly present today, but the bright LED screens and portability of modern devices are leading to new issues, such as those related to vision and posture. A study by UCLA also suggests that too much screen time could affect a child’s ability to recognize emotions and other nonverbal signs.
The facts are alarming, but that hasn’t halted the presence of screens from multiplying. Children today are growing up in the digital world, where electronic devices are mainstays at home and in the classroom. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly essential for parents to monitor and limit time spent in front of the screen.
Truth be told, your child’s health depends on it.
Like many daily actions, reducing screen time for kids is all about developing healthy habits. It won’t happen overnight, but with enough effort and initiative, you and your children can find your inner electronics-free zen.
This one might be a tough pill to swallow, but reducing your children’s screen time means you’ll likely need to slash your own first.
Kids aren’t the only ones who need limits when it comes to screen time. A recent Nielsen report indicates that American adults spend an average of 10.5 hours a day in front of a screen, up one full hour from the previous year. Adults who suffer from too much screen time are also at risk of obesity and other health issues, just like children.
Doing your own health a favor could be the catalyst your kids need to cut the wireless strings. Your children learn by observing you and others. If you’re continually plugged into your phone, checking work email, or watching tv, they’re more likely to deem these things acceptable.
That’s not to say you can never watch primetime tv again. Make it a point to engage in non-electronics-related activities when the kids are around, such as reading a book, doing a puzzle, or enjoying an outdoor activity. Your actions stand a chance of spurring new interests within them, so take advantage of the chance to choose activities that can potentially help them grow and develop new skills.
For some families, it’s all too easy to rely on televisions and tablets as secondary babysitters. After all, if your child is engaged with the digital world, you’re free to cook dinner, do the dishes, or complete a multitude of other tasks.
Leaving your child alone to entertain themselves with electronics robs them of the learning and connection opportunities these devices provide. This means you don’t always know what show they’re watching, what games they’re playing, or what they’re ultimately getting out of their time in front of the screen.
Instead, consider integrating screen-based activities into your family time. For example, you can watch a fun movie or documentary together, complete with snacks, pillows, and blankets. You can also play family-oriented games, such as the Hasbro Family Game Pack for PlayStation 4 (or whatever gaming system you have) or the Planet Earth DVD Board Game that includes on-screen gameplay.
Engaging in screen activities together offers several benefits:
First and foremost, it means you’re spending time together as a family. Fun events like Family Game Night help your kids create special memories of their childhood – and you’ll be a part of those memories.
In addition, it also means you know what information your kids are exposed to and how much screen time they’re getting.
Does your child automatically lunge for the remote whenever they have free time? It’s not uncommon for the television or computer to become the go-to entertainment source. But that doesn’t mean you have to allow it.
Some families have found success by using electronics as a last resort. For example, you might mandate that your children must do a chore, play outside, do something creative, and read for a certain length of time before you grant access to the remote. Other families change their WiFi password on a daily basis, and children must perform a chore or other tasks to gain access.
This free printable checklist is an excellent tool when it comes to helping your children find things to do other than spend time in front of a screen. Or, you can create your own rules to play by.
There are exceptions to every rule, but yours will depend on you as the parent. Some parents may lift screen time limits when their child is home sick and would prefer to watch movies because they can’t run around outside. Others may allow more video games on bad weather days when it’s either too wet or too cold to enjoy the outdoors.
Whatever exceptions you decide to make, be sure you don’t make them too often. An exception one day can easily become an exception for the next day, until it becomes a normal routine in your house.
Screen-based media isn’t all bad, but it must be used correctly if you want your children to get any benefits from it. It’s up to you to ensure you’re not only helping your children develop healthy screen-based habits, but also showing them the adventures around them that no screen could ever match.
Are you just as tuned in to technology as your kids?