Children and Screen Time

I feel like in today’s day and age a very rational questions parents must ask themselves is: Does my child spend too much time on electronics?  Which is very understandable as it feels as though everything is turning towards electronics.  What is screen time? It is any time spend using digital media for entertainment purposes.

In fact Canadian children spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen, with boys spending up to 8 hours a day.  This equals to 90 days or 3 months a year sitting in front of a screen.  This was very alarming for me to read this, the reason I am reading into this and doing my research. I have started to notice how much time all of my kids are spending on screens and I can’t stand it.  The rate of children getting a cell phone is dropping to lower ages every year.

A survey conducted from 2,000 parents of children between the ages of 5 to 12 years old found that: Children spend less time outside than prisoners, they are spending twice as much playing on screens then they do playing outside. It was also found that 4 in 5 tweens are on social media by the age of 12, with the most popular network being Facebook.  The scary thing is that kids who spend more time on social media networks feel less happy in almost all aspects of their lives.  This is very alarming to me, then only to think about the amount of cyber bullying that happens and predators that are out there! My 12-year-old has asked to have an Instagram account multiple times and I continually tell her no.  I’ve seen her friend at school get in trouble for bullying on Instagram and I just don’t think it’s something that she needs in her life at such a young age.

It also causes health problems for children, an excessive amount of screen time can raise the risk of attention problems, anxiety and depression.  Another alarming number is the amount of sleep deprivation in children. 6 in 10 kids between the ages of 3 to 5 have no regular bedtime.  The sleep deprivation increases with age from 57% among 2-4 year olds to 65% for 8-11 year olds.  When children use screens before bed it impacts sleep quality because it over stimulates the brain and the blue light emitted from the screen tricks our bodies into thinking that it’s daytime.

Doctors and neurotherapists have started doing studies and say they are noticing changes in early learning and development as a result of increased reliance of interactive technology. Even having a tv playing in the background while you are breastfeeding your baby can have an effect on the baby.  It minimizes the bonding time because you are focused on what you are watching, the baby is being stimulated by the sound and the baby also notices that you are not focused on him. They say that children younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all, as it affects the early development.

With parents and children continually being connected to some kind of device, our quality time with each other diminishes.  So what can we do to make sure our children are not spending too much time on screens? Here are a few tips that may help you.

Talk to your kids– explain to them how much their health can be effected by spending too much time in front of a screen.  Tell them how you are going to change things to make it easier for them.

Limit Screen Time– Only give your kids the 1 or 2 hours a day they should have. You can also use an app to track and turn off internet to each individual device in your house.  We use the google home app for this, you can check the App Store as they have a lot of options as well.

Designate Device Free Time– Make dinner time a device free time, sit with the kids at the dinner table and talk to them about their day.  Make it a rule that absolutely no phones at the table or during family games etc.

Provide other options–  Present your children with other fun options other than electronics. Like a game night on the weekend, where everyone loses their devices and plays board games or interactive games.  Suggest a game of kick the can or hide and seek! This way you are being active and getting rid of the screens.

I know it can be hard to read all of this, it was quite a shock to me! I am glad that I read it as I will now be making a conscious effort to limit my kids screen time to the bare minimum.  Although I know it will be difficult, I am 100 % up for the challenge. As well as limiting my own time on my electronics. Has anyone else had an issue with their kids spending too much time on screens?

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