By Deb Hopper
This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the Great Health Guide, a 96five community contributor.
Screen time for children – it’s one of those tricky topics to deal with from day to day. There are such mixed messages in the media about how much screen time is appropriate, healthy or even just OK for children to have.
Screen time has some valid and handy functions for both children and adults, so let’s not have all the thumbs down against screen time. The key is to have our eyes open, have clear minds and be open to how society seems to be pulled along and sucked into more and more screen time. It’s time to take stock and think clearly about WHY we should bother to think about this issue for children. It’s time to look up from our screens and really take an honest look about how much screen time our children are consuming every day.
Encourage your child to change their screen-time habits.
Here are seven reasons why we should manage screen time for children:
Life is busy and screens are a time waster.
Have you ever drifted into Facebook, Pinterest, eBay land, then looked at the time and realised 5, 12, 20 minutes has disappeared? Life is busy and we are fritting away so much time being distracted by our screens. It’s the same for our children. Time seems to run away.
Social disconnection threatens our families.
We can be on the couch swapping attention between our hand-held screens and the TV for hours and not connect with our family in the same room. We can enter the house after work or school and not have any fights or disagreements, but also no relationship building conversations. Both can lead to social disconnection in our families.
Time spent on screens is time not being active.
We are fighting the battle of the bulge and obesity is threatening all ages. It’s time to swap your child’s screen time for a walk around the block, a swing in the back yard or jump on the trampoline. Give your child’s brain some time to rest.
Contrary to our habits, screen time is not relaxing and stress reducing.
Zoning out with a screen may feel like relief after the pressures of the day, but if you really want your child to relax and sleep better, encourage them to look outside, watch the sunset, go for a walk on the beach or stare at a fish tank.
Too much screen time is linked to difficulties in getting to sleep.
In a study of 10,000, 16 to 19 year olds, researchers in Norway found that the longer a young person spent looking at an electronic screen before going to bed, the worse quality sleep they were likely to have. Having 1-2 screen free hours before bed supports a better sleep.
Screen time opens up the possibility of on-line bullying by children & particularly by teenagers.
It’s much easier to post negative opinions on social media than to bully someone face to face, but the effects of on-line bullying on children can be just as devastating.
While children are using screens, it makes communication very frustrating.
Often adults are frustrated as we can’t get the attention of children to ask how their day went or how they are feeling. Are children using screen times as a coping strategy?
Which of the above 7 reasons speaks closest to your heart? Are these risks enough motivation for you to consider encouraging your child to change their screen time habits? Now, what is your child doing? How long have they got until bed time? Is it time for them to disconnect from the screen and connect with you?
Deb Hopper is an Occupational Therapist, author and workshop presenter. She can be contacted via her website. For more health articles go to 96five community contributor Great Health Guide.