Simply Parenting – Screen Time

As with all things in life, I believe that screen time is fine as long as there is balance. So yes, when you are all at the end of your tether, vegging in front of the TV can be just the ticket. When meeting your friend for a cuppa and a chat, your phone will keep your toddler distracted so you can actually enjoy it. Giving children access to your laptop or tablet so they can ‘Google’ something (used to be called research), is a very valid part of their social and educational development.

Research and what-not!

Research and what-not!

We can start to go wrong by relying too heavily on all the screens available to us. We may ‘officially’ allow them to play a game on the Wii for half an hour but more realistically this will be 45 minutes or an hour. How many times have you agreed to half an hour of TV only to finally turn it off after an hour and a half? Am I the only one who lets them google Titanic and then spend 30 minutes watching funny videos on YouTube? Then, before we know it, they’ve had three hours of ‘screen time’ without even thinking about it!

But what harm is it really? I can’t purport to be an expert on the effects of screen time on the youth of today, although we are all aware of the correlation between screen usage and obesity in children.

However, I do know how screen time affects my own children. When it is time to turn off whichever screen, there is often a melt-down. They are always a little grumpy and less inclined to play together after watching too much TV.

Zombified!

Zombified!

In fact, they can become irritable, sluggish zombies for what feels like an eternity, completely negating the peace and distraction that the screen usage gave me in the first place!

So here are some tips to consider when managing screen time.

  • People come first: This is actually ingrained in me from my own childhood. We always had to turn the television off if a visitor came, and now the same applies in our house. Also includes if I’m talking to them and they do not look at me, they know TV will be turned off.
  • One screen at a time: So if you are playing on the XBox then the TV or iPad is off.
  • Keep it social: Watch TV together. Choose multiplayer games rather than single player games. Oversee any and all internet access or use parental controls.
  • Strike a balance: For example, thirty minutes screen time equals one and a half hours activity, playing outside, colouring, reading, puzzles etc.
  • Interaction: Discuss what you watched/played/researched after the fact.
  • Keep it appropriate: Absolutely NO screens in the bedroom, or after a certain time of the day. (The earlier you start this the easier it will be to enforce during the ‘fun ‘teenage years.)
Watching together.

Watching together.

Get out and do something too!

Get out and do something too!

Then there is the amount of time I spend looking at a screen. ‘Mum please put your phone down and watch me’ or ‘are you finished on your phone yet Mum?’ are all too common refrains in this house. And while I’m not about to start beating myself up about it, I am becoming increasingly conscious of not looking at my phone when I am in company, be it with friends or family.

So how do you manage screen time?  Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

photo credit: tug of the screen via photopin (license)

photo credit: After-dinner Gangnam Style via photopin (license)

photo credit: Robo-Nazi via photopin (license)

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Talking the Talk

Had a great chat with Alan Corcoran  on South East Radio this morning! You can listen in to the podcast here.

I am delighted that Alan has invited me back for another chat  before Christmas. If you have any particular Christmas themed topics you would like to hear discussed, please let me know!

This is new territory for me, so I really appreciate any and all feedback!

Thanks for listening. 😉

Aisling

Eat, Play, Love!

2011-07-07 17.42.03

Having just spent the Easter holidays letting the children gorge on chocolate to their hearts’ content, I found myself thinking about the issue of childhood obesity. I recently shared the safe food campaign on encouraging children to play all the old games we used to play. Like everyone else, I remember the joy of all those games; ‘tip the can’ was definitely my favourite although I NEVER played it with my parents – just my friends and siblings. I have been using ‘Red Rover’ and obstacle courses during the children’s parties for the last couple of years and the children love them..and they are not nearly as head wrecking as musical statues! However, although the children (and myself in fairness..) ate their body weight in chocolate over the holidays, I am not overly concerned. Neither am I rushing out every day to ensure that the kids get their 60 minutes exercise a day. I mean, if my children were only outside for 60 minutes a day, we would all have been institutionalised ages ago.

 

So why am I not concerned? I believe that the biggest contributor to childhood obesity is over-eating as opposed to lack of excercise. So, ‘choctastic’ Easter aside, I don’t tend to rely on snacks to feed the children. They have a normal breakfast of either cereal or toast – then they generally have a home-cooked lunch. I have been known to feed them frozen (oh, the horror!) chicken nuggets and chips or such like every now and then, followed by a small tea of cheese sambos or scrambled eggs on toast. They do have a snack between meals but it is a single rice cake or a single piece of fruit. The children are therefore always starving by the time they come to the table. This is a good thing! They also only get milk with their main meals – otherwise it’s water.. Now that is not to say that my children don’t have biscuits, crisps, ice-cream or squash – of course they do, but only occasionally – but everything should be in moderation.

 

Luckily for me, I only live a half-hour’s walk from the school so we generally walk, often getting a drenching but no one has suffered from pneumonia so far. I send them all out for a play at some point every day, including my youngest who just turned two. Last summer, my eldest was old enough to play ‘out front’, so now she hardly ever needs to be coerced outside. The balance of that is that if some days they don’t feel like going outside, it’s not the end of the world. I really think the never-ending snacking on cheese, frubes, biscuits, crisps and squash or milk between meals is a major contributor to bad eating habits which can in turn lead to childhood obesity.

 

I guess what I am trying to say is – don’t rearrange your life to encourage a new ‘Little House on the Prairie’ type existence. Instead, limit the size of their snacks and encourage your children to play outside. Family walks at the weekend are lovely and with the warmer weather coming in, will be something we can all enjoy a little more frequently. Maybe we will play a few games with the children during our holidays but the stress of trying to fit in some extra ‘fun games’ and activities to our already hectic weekdays is unsustainable. Pointing them towards the garden and putting away the biscuits is a lot more manageable in my opinion. Encouraging your children to go out and play does not mean that you have to drag yourselves to every adventure playground and public park in Ireland – just open the back door and boot them out!!

 

Thanks for reading

Aisling

I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.

 

 

 

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