Helping your child to bal­ance their use of screen time

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Deb Hop­per

Screen time for chil­dren - it’s one of those tricky top­ics to deal with from day to day. There are such mixed mes­sages in the me­dia about how much screen time is ap­pro­pri­ate, healthy or even just OK for chil­dren to have. Screen time has some valid and handy func­tions for both chil­dren and adults, so let’s not have all the thumbs down against screen time. The key is to have our eyes open, have clear minds and be open to how so­ci­ety seems to be pulled along and sucked into more and more screen time. It’s time to take stock and think clearly about WHY we should bother to think about this is­sue for chil­dren. It’s time to look up from our screens and re­ally take an hon­est look about how much screen time our chil­dren are con­sum­ing ev­ery day.

HERE ARE SEVEN REA­SONS WHY WE SHOULD MAN­AGE SCREEN TIME FOR CHIL­DREN: 1. Life is busy and screens are a time waster.

Have you ever drifted into Face­book, Pin­ter­est, eBay land, then looked at the time and re­alised 5, 12, 20 min­utes has dis­ap­peared? Life is busy and we are frit­ting away so much time be­ing dis­tracted by our screens. It’s the same for our chil­dren. Time seems to run away.

2. So­cial dis­con­nec­tion threat­ens our fam­i­lies.

We can be on the couch swap­ping at­ten­tion be­tween our hand-held screens and the TV for hours and not con­nect with our fam­ily in the same room. We can en­ter the house after work or school and not have any fights or dis­agree­ments, but also no re­la­tion­ship build­ing con­ver­sa­tions. Both can lead to so­cial dis­con­nec­tion in our fam­i­lies.

3. Time spent on screens is time not be­ing ac­tive.

We are fight­ing the bat­tle of the bulge and obe­sity is threat­en­ing all ages. It’s time to swap your child’s screen time for a walk around the block, a swing in the back yard or jump on the trampoline. Give your child’s brain some time to rest.

4. Con­trary to our habits, screen time is not re­lax­ing and stress re­duc­ing.

Zon­ing out with a screen may feel like re­lief after the pres­sures of the day, but if you re­ally want your child to re­lax and sleep bet­ter, en­cour­age them to look out­side, watch the sun­set, go for a walk on the beach or stare at a fish tank.

5. Too much screen time is linked to dif­fi­cul­ties in get­ting to sleep.

In a study of 10,000, 16 to 19 year olds, re­searchers in Nor­way found that the longer a young per­son spent look­ing at

En­cour­age your child to change their screen­time habits.

an elec­tronic screen be­fore go­ing to bed, the worse qual­ity sleep they were likely to have. Hav­ing 1-2 screen free hours be­fore bed sup­ports a bet­ter sleep.

6. Screen time opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of on-line bul­ly­ing by chil­dren & par­tic­u­larly by teenagers.

It’s much eas­ier to post neg­a­tive opin­ions on so­cial me­dia than to bully some­one face to face, but the ef­fects of on-line bul­ly­ing on chil­dren can be just as dev­as­tat­ing.

7. While chil­dren are us­ing screens, it makes com­mu­ni­ca­tion very frus­trat­ing.

Of­ten adults are frus­trated as we can’t get the at­ten­tion of chil­dren to ask how their day went or how they are feel­ing. Are chil­dren us­ing screen times as a cop­ing strategy? Which of the above 7 rea­sons speaks clos­est to your heart? Are these risks enough mo­ti­va­tion for you to con­sider en­cour­ag­ing your child to change their screen time habits? Now, what is your child do­ing? How long have they got un­til bed time? Is it time for them to dis­con­nect from the screen and con­nect with you?

Deb Hop­per is an Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist, au­thor and work­shop pre­sen­ter. She is pas­sion­ate about em­pow­er­ing par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors to un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing rea­sons of why chil­dren strug­gle with be­hav­iour, self-es­teem and sen­sory pro­cess­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. Deb is an au­thor and can be con­tacted via her web­site.

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