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.
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.
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.)
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,