How to Reduce your Child’s Screen Time?8 min read
Screens have become such an important part of everyone’s lives today – young or old. Whether it is for work, school, social interactions, entertainment, music, games, shopping or food – screens play a huge role in all aspects of our lives. With COVID-19 paralyzing the world, everyone needs screens now more than ever. Everything has moved online and it is so difficult to stay away from gadgets and electronic devices! But is it healthy for our minds and bodies to spend our days and nights with our eyes stuck to different screens? Various research shows that it is indeed not. And if too much screen time has ill effects on adults, then how much more does it affect kids?
The maximum brain development in a child takes place in their early years. This is the time for them to play, learn, interact with nature, make friends and grow. But all these ideals look very different in the 21st century where the quick and temporary fix for everything is a screen of some kind. But what is the alternative? You can’t even take your kids off technology completely! We don’t want them to be handicapped; plus, now they need these devices for their education too! But you can’t have them using too much either. So, what is the solution? Where do you draw the line?
Before we talk about it, we want your eyes to truly be opened to the evils of excessive screen time on a child’s body and brain.
What are the negative effects of screen time on your child?
Too much screen time can have serious negative effects on your child – physiologically as well as psychologically.
Decline in physical activity
When children are glued to their gadgets and devices, going out to play takes a backseat. However, kids need physical activity and outdoor play in order to strengthen their muscles, bones, bodies and minds. Fresh air and exercise are necessary for healthy growth and child development.
Spending a lot of time in front of screens also results in poor eyesight. Many more children now wear spectacles from much younger ages. Staring at screens will lead to your child straining his eyes and his vision getting impaired at a very young age.
Headaches are common even in adults who spend too much time working in front of screens. Having headaches will cripple your child’s brain and hinder him from concentrating on what is actually important like school work and classes. Your child’s academic performance as well as ability to complete tasks efficiently are greatly affected as a result.
Can cause obesity
When kids don’t have a lot of physical activity and exercise and sit idly in one place with their gadgets, they are at a higher risk of childhood obesity. Also, because kids sit in front of various screens watching things, they will also have the need to constantly snack on something. All this leads to kids becoming couch potatoes and having health issues as they grow.
Results in poor posture
Sitting in front of gadgets for prolonged periods of time in unhealthy postures will affect your child’s body in the long run. As your child uses mobile phones, tablets, laptops and computers for a long time, he will start slouching and bending over. Similarly, when children watch television, they usually sit with their heads inclined to one side. You must have noticed your child complaining of neck and/or back pain.
Irregular sleep cycles
Too much screen time also leads to irregular sleeping cycles in kids. The bright light emitted from the screen tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime and this disrupts your child’s sleep. This is why many people suggest not using gadgets right before bed as it can take the human brain and body longer to fall asleep. Unhealthy sleeping patterns will start affecting your child’s brain development, academic achievements and his health.
Hinders thinking and imagination
Yes, spending too much time on electronic devices does hinder kids’ thinking, imagination and creativity as well. With ready-made rhymes, songs, pictures, and answers found on gadgets, children no longer have the need to actually sit down and use their brains to just think or imagine things. Everything is readily available to them. While many people see this as a good thing, it is definitely detrimental to your child’s brain development and cognitive skills.
Decline in social interaction
This is a no-brainer. As kids spend more time on their screens, they don’t feel the need to go out and interact with actual human beings. Communication is a crucial part of the human world and while gadgets and the internet are connecting people through screens, they are actually creating more individuals who are disconnected from reality and other people.
A pathway to anxiety
Children who are very used to spending too much time in front of screens will tend to be extremely anxious and restless when they don’t have one in front of them. They won’t know what to do when they don’t have their gadgets to play around with. Anxiety and depression are so much more common in this age of technology.
In the midst of these times, where do you draw the line for how much time your child spends in front of screens? And what do you substitute that time with?
How to reduce your child’s screen time?
Although it may not be easy at first, remind yourself that it is necessary and so it has to be done. Your child may throw tantrums and try to rebel but the key is to be patient and understanding with your child and yourself. Here are a few ways to help reduce your child’s screen time:
Be a role model
If you want your child to learn healthy habits, you’re going to have to be the one to set an example. Kids learn a lot by just observing the adults in their lives so make sure you’re not being hypocritical by asking your kids to do something that they haven’t seen you do. Be a role model for screen time management and your child won’t have much difficulty in following suit.
Establish ‘Technology-Free’ zones
Create different spaces in your house to be completely free of technology. No family member should be allowed to bring any gadget or electronic device in these zones. Some examples could include your dining table, kitchen or your kid’s bedroom. Reserve these spaces for family time and interactions.
Keep your child’s bedroom screen-free
If you want to monitor your child’s screen time, you can’t do that if he’s out of your sight. Making a rule that no gadgets or electronic devices of any sort are allowed in your child’s bedroom will make it easier for you to know how much time your child is spending in front of screens. Also, your child will not be able to use any gadgets right before bed and spoil his sleeping patterns.
Decide aside times
Set times for the whole family to keep all their gadgets and electronics away to unplug. These times could include an hour before bed and even dinnertime. You can also do this over longer periods of time like weekends, school breaks or family vacations. Collectively decide when the whole family is comfortable doing this and set your technological devices aside. This will give your family time to bond and spend some quality time together. You could play a game or just have a nice thoughtful conversation.
Encourage other activities and alternatives
Asking your kids to keep away their gadgets is one thing, but filling that gap with things to do is another. Help your child to find alternative ways to spend his time. You could encourage reading, playing a board game, doing some chores around the house and so on. If your child has particular interests like singing, dancing, cooking etc., then do something around that particular interest; you could have a karaoke or dance session or cook a meal together. You could also look for art and craft activities to engage your child in. Encourage your child to find new hobbies. When your child is kept occupied doing something interesting that he likes, he will automatically not feel the need to ask for any gadgets.
Boredom ≠ Gadgets
This should be a rule that every parent keeps in mind. Every time kids complain about feeling “bored” doesn’t mean you hand them a gadget to keep themselves busy. Electronic devices are not the quick fix to boredom. Instead, help them to brainstorm and come up with creative ideas and solutions. Push your kids to come up with ways to solve the issue of boredom by asking them what they’d like to do.
Avoid buying your child his own personal gadgets until necessary
With everything moving to online platforms, it can get inconvenient for everyone to function with a minimum number of devices. However, as much as possible, try to put off buying your kid his personal gadget. Your child doesn’t need a mobile phone simply because everyone in his class has one. Get him his own device when he really needs it or only after a certain age.
Have conversations about the need to reduce screen time
None of these solutions will be effective if you don’t have conversations about them with your child first. Talk to your child about the consequences of excessive screen time and gadget use. Ask him if he’d want to turn into a slouching couch potato with no friends as he grows up. Talk about the ill effects of electronic devices and why it is important to limit screen time.
We hope this article helps to reduce your child’s screen time over the next few weeks.