Although some screen time can be very educational and a lot of fun, it’s very easy to go overboard and become dependent on this technology when it comes to your children – technology as nanny to the rescue! If you are one of those parents concerned about how much time your child spends watching TV or playing video games or on an iPad, there are sensible ways you can balance out the virtual and the “reality.”
Here is what you can do to keep YOU and your child’s screen time in check.
Limit a child’s use to no more than one or two hours a day. This sounds like a very low amount, given the massive time most children spent in front of television, computer, and gam screens, but before you write it off, consider the results of recent studies. Too much screen time has been linked to:
Obesity. Children who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be overweight from eating more in front of the TV. Don’t eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain.
Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to resist going to bed and to have trouble falling asleep. Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms watch more TV and videos than children who don’t. Monitor your child’s screen time and the websites he or she is visiting by keeping computers in a common area in your house.
Impaired academic performance. It has been shown that primary school children who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don’t. This results in not only lack of sleep, which affects their entire day, but also decreased focus and attention for learning.
Violence. Too much exposure to violence on TV and in movies, music videos, and video and computer games can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children may learn to accept violent behavior as a normal part of life and a way to solve problems.
What you can do to encourage more active play:
Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play. This has a huge impact on health physically and mentally as well as socially. Suggest other activities. Rather than relying on screen time for entertainment, help your child find other things to do. Consider classic activities, such as reading, trying a new board game, playing a sport or games outside.
Take a trip to the local park or ball field to hit or kick around a ball. Encourage outdoor playtime or even reading outdoors when the weather is nice. Create a small playlist of high energy songs and start a dance party in the kitchen, while sitting in the car (an upper body dance party, in this case), or in the living room. Eliminate background TV. If the TV is turned on — even if it’s just in the background — it’s likely to draw your child’s attention. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn off the TV.
Set school day rules. Most children have limited free time during the school week. Don’t let your child spend all of it in front of a screen. Avoid using TV and video or computer games as a reward all the time for finishing homework and chores.
Talk to your child’s caregivers. Encourage other adults in your child’s life to limit your child’s screen time, too.
Set a good example. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time. If screen time is becoming a source of tension in your family, unplug the TV, turn off the computer or put away the video games for a while. You might designate one day a week a screen-free day. To prevent unauthorized TV viewing, put a lock on your TV’s electrical plug.
When your child has screen time, make it as engaging as possible:
Make viewing an event. Rather than keeping the TV on all of the time, treat watching TV as though you were planning to see a movie in a theater. Choose a show and pick a specific time to watch it. Choose video games that encourage physical activity. Better yet, make the games a family experience.
Pay attention to TV Parental Guidelines — a system that rates programs based on suitability for children. Make a list of the programs your child can watch for the week and post it in a visible spot, such as near the TV or on the refrigerator. Use parental control settings on your home computer. Preview video games before allowing your child to play them.
Record programs and watch them later. This will allow you to skip or fast-forward through commercials selling toys, junk food and other products, as well as pause a program when you want to discuss something you’ve watched — such as a depiction of family values.
It can be difficult to start limiting your child’s screen time, especially if your child already has a TV in his or her bedroom or your family eats dinner in front of the TV however not impossible so create new household rules and steadily making small changes in your child’s routine, so you can curb screen time and its effects.
Copywritten by Jo Frost