Kids & Screen Time

Monkey See Monkey Do.

Screen time has become a big part of daily life for kids, perhaps more so than adults. According to MedlinePlus “Screen time” is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time. Three hours of daily TV viewing is common for kiddos. Total screen time soaring to five and even seven hours daily is not untypical.

Have you noticed kids don’t talk to each other when side by side or even on the phone like a generation or two ago did? Instead, the kids hack out messages with their thumbs as the means of relating to each other. According to a UCLA psychology study, children’s social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media. The study cites that children do substantially better recognizing human emotions when they have limited screen time.

Kids living with excessive screen time are more likely to be obese and have poor physical conditioning since they forego playing out of doors. The sedentary screen is their source of entertainment. Insomnia and mood and attention issues are also common results of too much screen time. They take on opinions of what they are viewing, make choices (food and drink choices based on advertisements) in sync with the images seen.

The child’s developing brain might be more susceptible to being ‘hijacked’ by digital media than an adult’s brain. Too much screen time could be akin to creating an addiction. A kid not hearing parents isn’t new to the ‘screen time generation’ but it seems the absence of mind creates a trance like devotion to the screen in front of their face. Kids are beyond mesmerized and engorged with their devices. Is it possible for this screen time foundation of addiction to lead to other addictions?

Screens and the computers behind them can be amazing learning tools. It’s necessary for kids to be able to navigate these tools and know how to use them for school work, finding resources and learning. Some socializing with screens is OK with parental oversight for approval and safety. Parenting sets healthy boundaries for kids and their screens, allowing the good and stopping the bad.

Kids need their parents to be their super heroes. Just because kids are growing up in a world where massive screen time is the norm, it doesn’t have to be this way. What children learn will shape their behavior and habits for life. Monkey see monkey do.

Children are super adaptable. With the courage of your convictions you can break away from the pack and see your children reap the rewards of optimal screen time and more diversity in their activity of body and mind. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, and that kids older than two watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. The two hour a day limit is for kids up to 18 years old. MedlinePlus says that despite what ads say, videos aimed at very young children do not enhance their development.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Tips to guide your child in a screen time absorbed society:

• Resist temptation to cave in to what other parents are allowing.

• Don’t use the TV as a backdrop, for background noise when it isn’t being watched. Instead put on pleasant music if sound is preferred over quiet. Many kids who study with classical music perform well.

• Require as much physical activity as screen time.

• Make other options available and fun: Board games, puzzles, and crafts; projects of special interest for school or pleasure; music lesson practice, sports activities, and chores.

• Choose movies to watch as a family and talk about the movies afterwards (what was the story, what did they like, dislike, favorite characters, etc).

• Screen time is a privilege.

• Block inappropriate sites.

• Require you have access to all devices (passwords) at all times.

• No devices two hours before bed.

• No devices at the meal time table.

• Devices are given to a parent before bed.

• No devices in the bedroom.

• Allow unlimited reading. Set up a reading challenge with a number of books and offer an activity reward such as an outing, adventure, or day trip.

They will resist. Eyes will roll. Words will be had. You will have the courage of your convictions. They will respect you. They will be the healthier and happier for it. Kids love a super hero, especially you, Dear Parent.