Everyone of us spends a very long time in front of a screen these days. Many of us, if not most of us, spend most of our days in a single day – including, unfortunately, our children.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course. When the pandemic started a year ago, we had no way of knowing it would last for so long. Suddenly, school is far away, and nursery school is over. Many parents started working remotely, and those who stayed in the workplace had less supervision at home. At the same time, sports, play dates, and other activities not actually shown on screen are gone. We naturally went into survival mode and turned on the screens. We allowed our kids to spend more hours than they used to on entertainment, and we thought it wouldn’t last long. We turned a blind eye to violent online games, and discovered that at least our kids were interacting with their friends.
But a year on, we’re still stuck at home – and our children are increasingly stuck in front of their screens.
Life on Screen: Changes in Behavior and Learning
This is not good for them. Besides the fact that time spent in front of a screen is inactive time, spending too much time in front of a screen has implications for the behavior and learning that can change our children. Rapid stimulation of much of what children interact with on entertainment media makes slower-paced activities such as playing with games, drawing a picture, or looking at a book less attractive. Not only that, but it can interfere with how children learn and practice executive function skills, such as delayed gratification, troubleshooting, cooperation, and overcoming life’s challenges. It also gives them fewer opportunities to use their imagination and creativity. It can affect their mood, making them anxious or depressed.
An additional problem is that it is difficult to know what children are doing on screens; Many children explore violent games or adult social media platforms, and their parents are not aware of this.
Steps parents can take about screen time
We have at least a few months left from the pandemic – a very long time to imagine this screen time issue is temporary. We also have to face the fact that the habits our children learn may not stop once the epidemic fades. Time to make some changes – and build some new habits.
What can we do?
Evaluate the problem. Take an honest look at what your kids – and you – are doing. Actually do after the hours, and do some research on what exactly your kids are doing online (have them show you this). What you discover may surprise you; We all like to think that things are better than they are. we are human beings. But you can’t make changes until you know what you’re dealing with.
Draw some lines on the sand. The screens don’t always need to be on, and some activities are not okay. Time for some house rules if you haven’t already. For example:
- Children should not participate in online activities or games that are not appropriate for their age. This may include violent video games. Think carefully and hard about what you want your child to do. Talk to your pediatrician if you have questions.
- Screen time shouldn’t be a hindrance to sleep. Devices should be charged somewhere near the bedroom (or in Do Not Disturb mode for teens).
- Screen time shouldn’t be in the way of social interaction. Enjoy screen-free areas, like family meals or other family times. (Yes, that means parents too.)
- Screen time shouldn’t get in the way of doing homework. This is complicated by homework involving screens, but many children are distracted by social media and online games.
Think as a family about alternatives to screens. At the start of the pandemic, when we thought it was going to be fast, we all cut corners and were a little lazy about coming up with alternatives. Now that we know it’s not fast, we need to reevaluate.
Talk about it as a family. Be clear that screen time should be cut short, this is not the discussion – the discussion is about What you might do instead. For example:
- Board games and games: Take them out, make space for play. Forget how fun it can be.
- Make things up! Build with blocks, make a city out of chests. Crates with bottles of wine or liquor can make great apartment buildings if placed on their side – you can trim the doors and windows and decorate each cabin. Draw, draw or build with clay. Knitting and knitting can be fun, and easy to learn with online tutorials.
- Read books with actual pages. Number of graphic novels and comic books.
- Play tools. Virtual lessons – and free online tutorials – are available.
- Cook and bake. Try new recipes, make old favorites. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Some of this includes adult time as well, depending on your child’s age – and that isn’t always easy these days. Try to come up with some activities that don’t require an adult to be actively involved. As for activities that need adults, think of them as an investment in your child’s well-being – and an opportunity for you to de-energize and relax, too.
Create a family media plan. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has it Wonderful tool You can use it. You might have to go through a few releases as you work to disengage your family from the screens. But this is good. The point is to start with healthy habits that will serve your children well for the rest of their lives.
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