Technology is a wonderful thing but many of us are worried about the effects it is having on our children. Today, we are more likely to see our kids sitting in front of a screen instead of a board game, thanks to the phones, tablets, and video game consoles that have become part of their lives.
With so much being said in the media about the dangers of screen time, we do, as parents have the right to be worried. Chances are, you may be worried too, especially if your children are regularly fixated on a small or large screen. You might even be tempted to ban screen time in your house altogether. But should you? And should you really be worried about screen time or are people in the media making a fuss about nothing?
Should You Ban Screen Time?
The decision on whether you do or not is of course, up to you. However, it’s important to note that screen time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there are benefits, and we aren’t just talking about the peace and quiet you’ll get when your children are out of your hair and fixated on their screens.
For one thing, your children will often need to use their tablets and laptops for school. The internet is great for research and many teachers expect their pupils to complete their assignments online. There are also educational apps that can be downloaded onto your children’s devices, and these can be of great benefit when educating your children at home.
Another benefit of screen time is the opportunity to be social. Yes, we know that screens can also make our children anti-social, but in moderation, they can also be quite useful. Messenger and online video games are useful for children staying in touch with friends outside of school. And FaceTime and other video calling technologies can be used for staying in touch with distant family members, such as grandparents who live many miles away.
As you will understand yourself, screen time can also be a fun time. Games, whether played on a phone or video game console can give our children great enjoyment. And as they should be allowed to let off steam after a busy day at school, spending time with a game they enjoy can be a great avenue for this.
These are just some of the benefits of screen time and are the reasons why you might not want to ban screens in your home. However, moderation is key, so reducing rather than banning screen time is a very good idea.
Why Should You Limit Screen Time?
As a parent, you will do all you can to protect their health. And it’s with this in mind that we recommended limiting screen time. There can be consequences for their mental health if they become addicted to the screens they use and there are physical downsides too. Physical strain to the eyes and body, and the risk of obesity, and associated health issues are some of the problems that exist through excessive screen time.
When your children are always on their screens, there is less time for family bonding. You might struggle to talk to your children if they’re looking at their phones at the dinner table or if they’re spending all their time in their bedrooms.
Screen time can also interfere with our children’s education. It can deter them from doing their homework as games and Facebook will generally be a more attractive proposition than a maths book or coursework. As screen time can also disrupt sleep patterns, our children’s ability to learn can also be compromised if they go to school feeling tired and groggy.
These are just a few of the negatives associated with screen time, so while you might not want to ban screens in your home, there are certainly reasons why you should limit them.
What Can You Do To Reduce Your Children’s Screen Time?
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your children’s screen time and these include the following.
Keep your children busy at home
The busier your children are, the less time they will have to spend on their screens. This isn’t to say you should create schedules that keep them permanently on their toes but you could organize games and a chore rota to keep your children active at home. You could encourage them to help you in the kitchen too, especially if they like to get hands-on with cooking. And if you could buy a supply of craft materials, books, and board games, they would have other things to do besides looking at a screen.
Get your children out of the house
If you have a yard or garden, consider the types of things they could do outside. You could buy them sports and games equipment to keep them busy, as well as water guns and outdoor toys that could occupy them for a while. Check out these fun backyard fort ideas too, as your children could spend a lot of time in imaginative play if you have the space to set something up outside. And what about gardening? You could give your kids their own vegetable patch to cultivate as not only will it keep them occupied but it might encourage them to eat their greens too!
Outside of your home’s perimeter, consider what else your children could do. Are they any hobby clubs in the local area? Are there any parks or beaches that you could take them to? Could you travel outside of the local area at the weekend? When your children are out of the house, preferably in a place where there is no wifi connection, they won’t have time to look down at their screens.
We know your children will probably hate the idea of rules but they are sometimes necessary. Where screen time is concerned, you could enforce a ban on phones during mealtime and at bedtime, for example. It’s probably a good idea to do this when they should be engaged with their homework too, so unless they need a screen for the work they have to do, remove any devices that might distract them.
Of course, the chances of your children kicking up a fuss are high. Especially if they are already showing the signs of screen addiction, you can probably expect them to lash out when you try to limit their screen time. However, you need to stick to the rules you lay out, no matter how unpleasant those first few days/weeks are. As with any addiction, you need to wean your kids off their screens, so while they might experience digital separation anxiety at first, they should adapt eventually.
To make your life easier, it’s advisable to find other things for them to do, as we already suggested. And if you can make the point that limiting screen time is better than banning it, they should adhere to the rules you put in place.
Be a good role model
If you’re prone to more screen time than is good for you, then you should also take steps to wean yourself away from the devices you use. If you can break your screen addiction, your children are more likely to follow the rules you set and limit their own screen time.
So, don’t tell your children to go and play outside while you’re inside binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook. And don’t remove their phones at mealtime while you spend time at the dinner table looking at your own. Making one rule for others but not for yourself is no way to encourage your children to put down their screens, so be firm with yourself too.
When you limit your screen time, you will benefit your health and sleep routine. You will have more time for family bonding too. If you can spend time with some kind of activity that you and your children can do together, you will do much to reduce screen time for all of you.
What Should You Do In Your Home?
So, we have looked at the benefits of screen time and we have looked at some of the negatives. We have also considered ways in which you could limit screen time in your home. With all of this in mind, consider what you can do. If you think screen time is a real problem for your children, you should act early. Now is the time to consider non-screen activities that could fill their time. It’s also time to talk to your children about screen time rules to prepare them for the limitations you might want to set.
If your children aren’t beholden to their screens yet, perhaps because they are at too young an age, you should do your best to limit screens in your home. If they can grow up with fewer screens and with other things to fill their time, you might navigate away from the problems that are associated with screen time.
These are our suggestions but what do you think? If you have any advice for parents reading this article, please share your ideas in the comments below.