As I sit here and look at my kids this evening I begin to wonder. My wife and I have 7 children (6 living at home) and we try to keep them as involved as we can in things other than SCREENS. But this evening (Because of the snowy cold winter night) they are all having Screen Time. There are my 3 smallest watching a cartoon on Netflix, the middle 2 are playing video games (Mind Craft I believe) and the oldest is surfing Instagram on his iPod while watching his brothers playing video games. I thought to myself, what has happened to kids in this generation.
Studies show that kids ages 2 to 8 spend on average 2.5 – 3 hours per day and teens age 8 to 18 spend more than seven hours a day, looking at screens (some of this is at school looking at computer screens). The new warning from the AHA (American Heart Association) recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day. Aug 6, 2018, CBS Morning News https://www.cbsnews.com/news/parents-need-to-drastically-cut-kids-screen-time-devices-americanheart-association/
Screen time has an effect on health:
- Influences Eating Behaviors – Kids get transfixed on the screen and forget to eat or forget to understand the signs they are full and continue to snack.
- May Increase Obesity Risks – Lack of physical exercise and continual snacking/eating
- Disrupts Sleep Quality – The blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm ) to a later schedule
- Behavior Problems – Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems. Excessive TV viewing has even been linked to increased bullying behavior.
There are so many long term side effects and health risks of too much screen time, let alone the massive amount of wasted time that could be used for more productive things. Kid’s imaginations are disappearing at an alarming rate. As a kid, I played outside all the time where the sky was the limit to what I could imagine and dream up. Now they are being told what to imagine by the screens. Their ability to communicate verbally with people and interact and socialize with them is almost a lost art. It is time to unplug and find some new “Screen Time”
So in our home (currently living with us) our kids ranging from 18 down to 5. We have a kid that fits into almost every category. How can we, in our home, make sure that our kids don’t fall into this category of too much electronic screen time?
“Screen Time” Program
S–Scenery C–Comradery R–Recreation E-Education E–Entertaining N–Nature
Scenery – It is important that your kids know that there are beautiful things out in the world beyond the screens. Take them to new places and introduce them to the world around them. Whether it be in the city or out in the country.
Comradery – It is important for kids to learn how to get to know other kids. And especially to learn how to communicate with others. Verbal communications skills are becoming a lost art but are something they will need as they grow into adulthood. Take them to the park where there are other children playing (hopefully there are other kids playing, LOL). Let them interact with the kids and learn how to get along and communicate.
Recreation – Get the kids outdoors. Go for a walk, a bike ride. Take them hiking or to a sporting event. Go for a picnic in the park. Look for things you can do with your kids that you enjoy doing together. There are so many things out there that your kids will never know about if you don’t introduce them.
Education – As you start doing more things away from the screen, find ways to teach your kids about things you see and do and be enthusiastic about it. If you go for a bike ride, take the time to help them make sure their bike is ready. Check the tires, make sure the breaks work and that you have the right safety equipment (helmets, reflectors, etc.) Take those moments to see that even when you are learning you can have fun. These can be some of the greatest life lessons you ever teach. And they can and will have long-lasting effects on your kids.
Entertaining – Make sure that your kids enjoy what you’re doing. Kids crave screen time because it entertains them. Make sure what you are doing with them is for their entertainment, not yours. If your children are 4 and 6 years old you can’t take them to an art gallery, while you may totally enjoy that your kids would be bored. Get down on their level and enjoy what they enjoy.
Nature – One of the best things about nature is that it is one big screen!!! Get out there and let your kids find out what nature is all about. Whether that be going for a short hike or going camping, let them be outdoors and learn to enjoy the quiet and peace that is felt there. That sunset that will never be forgotten. That butterfly that lands on their nose and tickles their face with its wings. These things will be etched in their minds and bring you closer together.
I challenge you for the next month (well make that when it gets a little warmer, lol) to spend as much “Screen Time” with your kids as possible. It will have lasting positive effects on both your life and theirs and you both will be happy you did.