Screen time is a term used to describe the time during which screen is used as an activity. This includes watching TV, playing video games, using a computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablets etc. Very little or no energy is utilized during this time because you are physically inactive.
Now, more than ever, screen time has increased in young children drastically. Unfortunately, most of the times, parents are responsible for this. You have to do certain piece of work and your kid is disturbing you, you will tell him to go watch TV or play video game because you find it convenient. Do you know you are actually ruining your child?
Steve Jobs( CEO of Apple Inc ) Said in an interview with New York Times :
“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
Effects Of Prolonged Screen Time:
Excessive screen time can cause potential health problems in children like:
- Increased risk of obesity
- Decreased cardio-respiratory fitness
- Drying of the eyes, decreased eyesight, more chances of nearsightedness
- Emotional outbursts like frustration, anxiety, restlessness, moodiness
Do you wonder why violence and vulgarity have increased so much during the last few years? This is because we and our kids are watching such things. The cartoons, movies and even advertisements carry subluminal messages that a person can not understand at that moment but the subconscious brain picks them. Gradually, without our awareness, we begin to do things that we would not ordinarily do.
Steps To Reduce Screen Time Addiction:
Once you realize the negative effects, you have to help your child reduce screen time. You have to set rules and make a conscious and steady effort to achieve your target.
1. Start From Your Self:
The first and foremost rule is to be an example yourself. You can not compel your child to stop doing anything, be it lying, shouting or anything, unless you stop yourself from doing it. Children follow things more quickly and easily if they watch their parents do the same. You should be a role model for your kids.
2. No Screen Time While Having Meals:
Meal time is one of the best times when the whole family sits together and rich conversations take place. Let not the television or any modern technology spoil this precious time. Value this time with your kids and make it a priority. Follow this rule religiously and you and your kids will surely feel contented.
3. No Screen In Bedroom:
There should be no TV set or computer either in your room or your kid’s. Children who have TV in their room naturally watch it more. They develop a habit of late night movie watching which disturbs the ‘early to bed and early to rise’ sleeping pattern. Keep a password on computer and lock on TV.
4. Involve the Child in Hobbies:
Of course if you are limiting something, you have to provide an alternative. Hobbies are really good to keep your child busy. Depending upon your child’s interest, you can choose from a wide variety like stamps collection, coin collection, book reading, drawing, painting, craft making, martial arts, gardening etc.
5. Encourage Physical Activities:
Physical activities are very important for children. It nourishes their body as well as mind. Encourage your children to invest their time in sports. They will enjoy more if you can participate with them. (Read more: The Importance of Physical Activity in Children)
6. Keep a Fixed Screen Time Daily:
Keep a fixed amount of time. Decide the time limit and most importantly, fix to it. No excuse any day should convince you to increase that time. Even if your child makes a fuss, don’t give up. Make sure that whenever they watch screen, they watch quality programs, under your supervision.
7. Let Them Know Their Values:
If your child complains that his friends watch lots of cartoons or movies and he feels bad about it, explain him your values. Tell him the adverse effects of those useless shows as well as the advertisements. If he finds himself not participating in their discussions tell them that he is learning to participate in healthy discussion which they might not be able to. Just because his friends do something does not mean they are right. Their values might be different or their parents might realize the behavioral effects later.
8. Reward Least Screen Time Member:
This is a fun way of motivating your child to decrease screen time. Make a chart of all the siblings (or include yourself and your spouse if you have one kids) and against their names write down the number of minutes they watch TV or use computer daily. At the end of the month, reward the child with the least no of minutes.
9. Be Consistent:
Now that you have set rules and planned to cut your child’s screen time, the most important thing is to stick to the rules and be consistent. Don’t give up even a single time. Initially you might feel that it is difficult to convince your child but with consistency and perseverance, you and your child will reap rewards in the end.
Sarah, Moderator of Lift Up Ideas, Mother of 3 & Electrical Engineer.