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Being a parent is often challenging stuff. We’re pressed for time and attention, and our kids are constantly in need of us. One thing that is an ever-present issue for modern parents is the issue of screen time. There are screens everywhere – from our living rooms to our cars. But how much is too much? What are the reasons that screen time is bad? And what are some good strategies for replacing it?
How much is too much?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that kids under 2 shouldn’t have any screen time at all and that older children should have no more than two hours per day. That sounds like a lot, but it’s easy to get there, especially when school isn’t in session. Don’t forget that ALL screens count in this – tablets and video games, computers and movies, as well as television, are all counted. Time just kind of evaporates when the screen is on!
6 reasons that screen time is bad
Screen time interrupts sleep not only because the blue light from screens affects the brain, but also because screen time can be addictive, calling a child to want to watch late into the night. This is really a risk when children have access to screens at night.
The more time your kid spends sitting in his chair, the greater his or her risk is of becoming overweight. Access to screen time in the bedroom increases this risk. Don’t forget that advertisements aimed at children are often for unhealthy foods, which can affect your child’s desire to eat the bad stuff.
Studies have shown that school-aged kids who spend more than two hours a day with screen time are more likely to have social and emotional as well as attention problems. Video games, in particular, are linked with attention issues, and kids who watch lots of TV during the preschool years are more likely to have bullying behavior when they’re older.
Time in front of the screen is time that’s taken away from other things, and one of those things is often school work. School-aged kids who have screens in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don’t. Learning isn’t just about grades, but they are an important indicator of how kids are doing academically, and screen time is certainly taking away from academic pursuits.
We know that people can become desensitized to violence when they’re exposed to it, and the media is absolutely full of violence. The more that kids watch, the more likely they are to see violence. It’s important that children learn early that violence isn’t the way to solve problems.
Just like screen time takes away from academic time, it also takes away from good old fashioned playtime. Screens do the telling for your child instead of letting them come up with their own stories. Playtime isn’t just about keeping kids occupied or even having fun, it’s about kids getting to stretch those imaginations to their limit and to really grow! Screens don’t allow for that.
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Good Strategies for Replacing Screen Time
Cutting screen time is a challenge, for everyone. For kids, it’s of course hard to do because they’re losing something that they have fun doing. For parents, it’s hard to not give in to the habit that’s there. Here are a couple of tips to help you out and to keep you motivated.
Read about it
Read about why screen time isn’t great for your kids. Keeping the reasons fresh in your mind will help you to stay focused on your goals. Not to mention there are a ton of ideas in books about limiting screen time that can really help you to figure out how exactly to fill that time for your kids, and how to help them to find ways to fill that time without getting frustrated.
Here are some great books on why to cut the screens. Both great reads that will give you lots of ideas and inspiration.
Use a timer
Something as simple as setting a timer can really affect the way that this whole thing works. If you set a time limit for your child’s screen time, then this way you can actually just set it and let it go. You don’t have to constantly be the clock and watch your child’s activity level.
There are some great timers out there, like the ones below.
Reward good behavior
Obviously, you’re not going to want to reward your child’s screen-free time with more screen time, but there are SO many other things that you can put into place in order to help your child to be successful. Think about time with you as a reward or maybe something will enhance the things that they’re filling their screen-free time with, for instance, art or sports gear, or books! There are lots of great reward systems out there, but to get you started here are some great pre-made reward charts that can make the whole thing work for your child.
Keep at it!
With screens everywhere around us, and with there seeming to be more and more popping up in places every day, it can be really difficult to limit that screen time. But it’s worth it! If you stick with limited screen time for a month, then you’ll never believe how your kids were able to log so much, to begin with! It’s the kind of change that really can take hold of your family and that will make everyone better, not just your kids. In the beginning, if you feel like you can’t make it then keep at it!