First the world compels you to live basically every aspect of your life virtually, and now here we are asking you to put down your devices as much as you can. A bit paradoxical right? But then, as with all things in life, regulation and moderation is necessary for sustainability and longevity. These days trying to separate a kid from his iPad is as big a Herculean task as trying to take a cub away from its mother. But then we must understand the health implications that can come with succumbing to the wills of our little monsters. We must learn to put our foot down in order for them to march forward. So next time your brooding teenager dramatically slams the door in your face for turning off the Wi-Fi after he’s exhausted his two hour internet limit, make him some pancakes and tell him “you’re welcome.”
It comes as no surprise that between homework, social media, video games and YouTube videos, many kids rack up six or seven hours of screen time daily.
As a parent, it’s your job to be aware of how your child spends his or her time as well as the role screens play in their health and well-being. Watch how your children react to screen time and how they behave when screens are taken away. Do you notice significant behavioral problems when you nix screens? Does your child exhibit tantrums or outbursts? If so, then screen time might require tighter controls.
Today’s children have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can’t imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.
The advances in technology mean today’s parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen time for children. While digital devices can provide endless hours of entertainment and they can offer educational content, unlimited screen time can be harmful.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents place a reasonable limit on entertainment media. Despite those recommendations, children between the ages of 8 and 18 average 7½ hours of entertainment media per day. But it’s not just kids who are getting too much screen time. Many parents struggle to impose healthy limits on themselves too. The average adult spends over 11 hours per day behind a screen.
While screens are a convenient way to access information and maintain relationships, they also come with several drawbacks:
- Screens may slow language development among younger children: A child can learn words by using the screen, but the screen can’t provide the feedback necessary for children to develop and use language.
- They stifle creative thinking: Creative activities – such as playing with play dough, drawing and crafting, stacking blocks or using building sets and reading tangible books – take a backseat in homes where screens are at the forefront.
- Behavior Problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than 2 hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
- They interfere with social skills development: Some children become so attached to their screens that they aren’t able to behave in socially appropriate ways when screens are not present.
- Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.1
- Sleep problems: Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
- Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Most of the conversations about the dangers of screen time focus on children. But, it’s important to recognize that adults may experience many of the same harmful effects as well, like obesity and sleep problems.
But even if you aren’t experiencing any tangible health problems stemming from your digital device use, there’s a good chance your electronics could be harming your relationship with your child.
Even replying to a quick text message could be sending your child another message—that your phone is more important than he is.
Giving your child interrupted care—by repeatedly checking your smartphone—could also affect his development and his mental health. A 2016 study suggests looking at your digital devices could increase your child’s chances of developing mental health problems, like depression.
Establishing Family Rules With Gadgets and Gizmos
Telling your child to turn off his video games while you’re sitting in front of the TV won’t do anyone any good. It’s important for you to set healthy limits on your electronics use for your own sake, as well as your child’s sake.
In addition, consider an occasional digital detox for the whole family. Create a screen-free night once a week or commit to unplugging one weekend a month. It could be good for everyone’s physical and emotional health, as well as your family’s relationships.
And just in case you’re struggling to make these dramatic adjustments, consider applying these strategies as well;
- Focus on academics: Make screen use related to schoolwork or other developmentally appropriate academic subjects top priority, and set clear boundaries around other uses.
- Delay giving smartphones to kids: Put off giving your children smartphones until they hit high school, if possible.
- Set limits: Children between the ages of two and five should use screens for less than one hour per day, according the American Academy of Pediatrics. For older kids, two hours is a good limit and be sure to be consistent when setting limits. When it comes to smartphones, use parental control software to limit text messaging and Internet access.
- Establish screen-free zones: Make sure everyone in your family – adults and kids alike – follow certain rules with regard to screens. A few solid examples: no screens during meal times no smartphone use while driving and no screens of any type in the bedroom.
- Emphasize educational use: You can use educational content to teach your children about the world. Just make sure you’re part of the program. View the content with the child and then connect with them about what you learned.
- Be a good role model: Right or wrong, your child is programmed to follow your lead. If you text through dinner, keep your phone on the nightstand and stop mid-thought to read an email, you’re teaching your children that screens take priority.
And just to show you we mean business, we really do hope you’re not spending so much time on your phone reading this article when you could stroll into our clinic for a more ‘traditional’ consultation instead 🙂