Screen time for kids is a real hot button issue. Media commentators, bloggers, childhood experts and parents at school pick-up – they’re all talking about it! Most of us can agree that it’s bad – but did you know just how bad it can be?
There are some elements of screen time that are acceptable (and that are age dependant). Using educational apps under supervised, timed conditions and watching TV shows that have educational content certainly doesn’t sound that bad. Some video games even have the capacity to teach kids valuable, real life skills.
But it’s the unfettered, unrestricted access to screens, for hours a day, which has parents, teachers and psychologists deeply worried about the impact on our kids. When it comes to playing with games and apps, the reward circuits of the brain in addicted children can be seen as being neurologically different from their peers.
Potential negative impacts of too much screen time for kids include:
• Tendency towards obesity
• Problems with sleep (disrupted sleep)
• Behavioural problems • Educational problems and
• Tendency towards violence
Too much screen time can cause our children to withdraw from socialising with others, remove themselves from the family structure and cease to care about anything apart from their device. It’s like watching your child get lost within themselves – and it’s frightening.
Here are some great ideasfor reducing the amount of screen time your kids are getting:
• Set limits and timetable in screen time. Make sure there is a clear understanding of start and finish time.
• Set a rule that meal times are together at the table and that no devices are invited!
• Examine your own device usage (particularly around the kids) and model good behaviour.
• Don’t use screens as a threat or a reward.
• Remove devices from the bedroom so it is a place of rest and relaxation.
• Bring back good, old-fashioned imaginary play by encouraging children to step away from the screens and enter a world of make believe.
• Encourage reading! Read to the kids and have them read to you. Include a chapter book as part of your night time ritual.
• Get creative with kids by making different arts and crafts. You could even try baking for a delicious challenge.
• Get active! Take the dogs for a walk, hop on a bike or just have a dance party in the living room.
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