Do you worry about how much screen time your child has? I know that I’m guilty of using my phone too much and I worry about the impact that screen time has on my children. Don’t worry, this blog post isn’t going to preach about cutting technology out of your life completely. We live in a digital world and whether we like it or not, there’s a need for children to be media literate. So here’s what I found out, with some ideas to help you find a balance.
What are the effects of too much screen time?
Professional opinions vary and there are no official guidelines on screen time in the UK. However, studies show that screen time can have negative effects on:
- Brain development
- Language development, due to reduced parent/child interaction
- Physical development as it can act as a replacement to outdoor activities
- Social/emotional development
- Attention span
How much is too much screen time?
It can be difficult to get the right balance between raising media literate children without stepping over the line into overuse in a world where technology is so prevalent.
The advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is that children should have two-hour limits on the time spent in front of screens, or TV-free days.
Too much screen time for children isn’t life-threatening, and parenting is full of all sorts of trade-offs; for your family, more rather than less digital media might be worth it. But the effects of digital media-watching can add up over years and turn into bad habits and behaviours that self-perpetuate beyond what parents can control. That doesn’t mean this generation of children are doomed — it just means parents need to learn how to make screen time work for children, rather than against them. – The Swaddle, The actual effects of screen time on kids development
Common sense media a non profit organisation aims to help kids thrive in a world of media and technology. They advise setting a family schedule with weekly screen time limits. They also suggest that you agree guidelines about the types of activity children can do, or what types of programmes they can watch.
How can I reduce my child’s screen time?
- With BT Parental Controls you can set ‘homework time’ to reduce website access at set times
- The Forest app lets you grow a beautiful forest if you keep your phone use within set limits. I’ve downloaded it to see if I can reduce the amount I use my phone!
- You could agree that the whole family unplugs together, with screen free areas such as bedrooms and the dinner table
- Agree appropriate timescales that they can use their device and then set a good example
How can I make the screen time that my child has more productive?
You can help to make the screen time your child has more productive by using screens as a learning tool.
- If there’s a film that your child wants to watch which is based on a book, get them to read the book too. Then you can discuss how the book and the film differ.
- If your child likes a particular programme find activities which they can do which link to the programme. E.g. a trip to a farm after watching a wildlife show, making crafts featured in a craft programme, a trip to a science museum etc.
- Discuss your opinions about programmes or films you watch together. Talk about real life examples.
What are some alternatives to screen time?
Although we all know that screen time isn’t great for our children it ends up being the easy option when we’re under pressure. It can be a challenge to think of things that the kids can do when they tell you they’re bored and you’ve got work to do and a house to run. So it’s good to have a list of ideas which you can refer to.
Screen time can be a deprivational activity, in that it deprives us of time to do something more productive. Time spent in front of a screen is time NOT spent doing something that develops the brain, encourages imagination, builds relationships and creates a healthy, whole person. So try to think of boredom busting ideas which help to develop your child’s brain, language skills, imagination, physical development and social skills.
Do what works for you, stick a list up on a kitchen cupboard, or turn it into a boredom jar. Come up with your own ideas, get your children to help you, or print off my ideas. If the kids complain that they’re bored ask them to pick an idea from the list, or take an idea out of the boredom jar.
I hope you found my ideas useful. I you have any other ideas for how to manage screen time for children I’d love to hear them, so please comment below.
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