In a world where we are surrounded by screens, it is difficult to teach our children to look away from the television, the computer, or the phone and explore the world around them. Screen time often takes away from active living for children and too much screen time has been known to lead to lower grades, trouble with social skills, and a rise in obesity.
There are steps parents can take to help their children lean away from screen dependency.
Balance Screen Time with Outdoor Time
Show your children they can have fun away from a screen by making time for outdoor activities like bike riding, playing at the park, or taking walks. Children need variety in their activities and screen time can act as a great activity to wind down from the outdoors. After all, it is summertime and tones of outdoor fun to be had!
Getting Ready for Bed
Children routinely exposed to screens before bed are often at risk for disturbed sleep patterns. Technology should be replaced with things that will get them mentally relaxed and ready to fall asleep. Some of these activities include playing a board game, colouring, or reading books. Bright screens tell the brain that it’s daytime and can make it difficult for the child to fall asleep. Children’s bedrooms should be screen-free zones in order to encourage falling asleep away from technology.
Modeling Healthy Behaviour
Dinner and family time should always encourage active engagement between family members! Parents should be consistent in enforcing the rules. They should also set a good example for children by turning off their phones, closing their laptops, and powering down any other devices for meals and family time.
Don’t just have children turn off their screens during dinner. Engage them too! If they’re busy helping you set the table, they won’t be as willing to check the tablet.
Children will look up to their parents so if you spend time outside instead of in front of a screen, you will encourage your child to do the same.
Engaging Screen Time
In today’s day and age taking technology away entirely is a near impossible task. Instead, screen time should be repurposed to be productive and engaging for children. Turning screen time into family makes what was once an isolating distraction and turns it into an opportunity for bonding and learning!
Create conversations with your children about what they see on television, distinguish what is real or what is fantasy. Watch the news together and discuss any cautionary social media stories that may arise.
Be aware of how your child spends their technology time when you are not present by getting to know the social media outlets they use. Know what kind of conversations and content is present there so you are better prepared to discuss and distinguish between quality and educational content.
According to recent studies, family time is the strongest predictor of better achievement and fewer behavioural problems, so use it to your child’s advantage! Using technology together also allows you to create quality screen time. You can guide your child toward content that is educational, constructive, and engaging.
If you’re concerned about heavy media use, consider creating a schedule that works for your family. This can include weekly screen-time limits, limits on the kinds of screens kids can use, and guidelines on the types of activities they can do or programs they can watch. Make sure to get your kids’ input so the plan teaches media literacy and self-regulation, and use this as an opportunity to discover what they like watching, introduce new shows and apps for them to try, or schedule a family movie night.
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