Screentime is the biggest challenge of modern-day parenting. Most parents feel guilty at some time or other about the amount of time their kids spend watching TV or looking at their devices: computers, I-pads, PlayStation, etc.
Children prefer to spend more time with their devices than with their family or going outside.
With the long summer holidays looming on the horizon, screen time might seem like an inevitable part of your parenting strategy to keep your kids amused and happy, especially if you also are doing your own work whilst looking after them.
Is there a Problem With Screen Time for Kids?
Yes, most of us know the bad news – excessive screen time is linked to obesity, sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, low test scores and eventually chronic neck and back problems.
Too much time spent looking at electronic devices can also cause eye problems.
When you stare at a screen you blink less often, which causes dry sore eyes.
There is good evidence that children who spend too much time indoors doing near sight activities, are more likely to develop myopia (short-sightedness). It is thought that safe exposure to UV light plays a crucial role in healthy eye development for children. Therefore, experts recommend more that children spend more time playing outdoors and less screen time.
What can you do to help reduce your child´s screen use?
This is very important. For instance, take your child outside to play football, to the playground or to walk the dog.
Read our five top tips to tackle the challenge of children preferring screen time than other activities.
1. Encourage a Wide Range of Activities
It is easy to get stuck in a rut if your kids are used to spending hours on end on their iPad or watching TV. They will probably have forgotten how to amuse themselves, if they ever in fact really knew how to.#
They’ll need your help to manage this if you’re actively trying to reduce screentime. You could try board games, reading together, cooking, dressing up, drawing or painting. Sure, it takes a bit more effort, but you’ll be making memories of fun times with your kids.
Try and get them to go outdoors. Find them a way to be happy outside. This may involve a treat to encourage them.
2. Password Protect Their Devices
There are lots of good reasons to do this, beyond being able to set limits on your children’s screentime. It will give you more control of the content they are accessing and may also alert you to any issues with cyber-bullying.
While you’re at it, you could put screentime limits on your own phone. You might be surprised, or even shocked, to see how many hours you’re racking up yourself!
3. Make Screen Time a Group Activity
It’s not necessary to completely demonise screens altogether. The world is changing, and our children are growing up in a society where technology is central to our lives.
Could you do some digital art with your child? Or perhaps the whole family could watch a film or play video games together on a rainy Sunday afternoon? If you make it a communal activity, it’s more sociable and less passive, and generally a healthier habit than using screens alone.
4. Talk to Your Kids!
This might sound rather patronising, but older kids will be able to understand the health risks of too much screen time, so you should explain properly to them the reason for placing limits on their device use. This is a much better option than simply withdrawing access without explanation, or as punishment for bad behaviour.
Striking up conversations, telling jokes and generally being silly with your kids is also a good distraction for them and can help to build up your relationship. Remember that if you listen to younger kids rattling on about what they find interesting (even if it’s Minecraft…), they’re more likely to talk to you about their problems when they’re older.
5. Set a Good Example
This is easier said than done when you’re trying to catch up on your work email while the kids eat their tea or checking the class WhatsApp group gossip at bath time. But all the negative impacts of screen time on kids apply to adults too, and your kids are watching you all the time!
Try and look at your family’s screentime as a whole, rather than just focusing on your children’s habits. If your child sees you making changes and feels that you are focusing on them, rather than your phone, then you’re all likely to see the benefits.
Less Screen Time Means Happier and Healthier Families
We all know it’s true, but it takes effort to reduce device use in our families. Hopefully, this article has given you some useful tips to try at home, to help everyone in your household reduce their screen time and have a happier and healthier summer.
If you need any advice on the eye health of your family or need to arrange routine check-ups during the summer holidays, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts. We’d be delighted to see you!