How often do you find yourself throwing in a movie or turning on an easy Netflix series to keep the kiddos distracted or to pass by time? While this may be helpful, and needed on occasion, it is important to carefully plan out and control the amount of screen time we are exposing to our children. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, today’s children average seven hours a day of screen time! 7 hours! Now with today’s school learning now being restricted to online learning, this makes things tricky when looking at screen exposure!
Although some screen time be utilized as a learning tool and a great way to stay connected to loved ones from afar, it can also harvest bad habits and lead to health concerns.
Some detrimental effects of increased screen time include:
Inconsistent sleep: The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Behavior issues: Excessive computer, tablet, phone use can lead to difficulties in school, attention problems, hyperactivity and behavioral issues. Kids may become dependent on playing their favorite game or watching their favorite show, that when limiting that exposure, they tend to fight back.
Limiting physical activity: When kids would rather stay inside and watch tv/play video games they are decreasing physical activity and often times can predispose for adolescent obesity.
While parents have little control over the amount of entertainment media that is readily available, they can make an impact on their child’s exposure. Here are a few tips to help regulate screen time:
No screen time for children 2 and under. The first two years of life are a time of rapid brain development. Children learn best at this critical time by interacting with others, playing and exploring. Time away from a screen encourages healthy physical and social development.
Reduce screen time to only 2 hours or less a day – This doesn’t only refer to TV, but includes all electronic devices. Instead of TV, find activities outdoors or find engaging activities such as drawing, coloring, puzzles, or other crafts. Create more family time to go for a walk or play a board game together will help encourage interaction and promote proper brain development.
Remove all TVs from bedrooms- Having TVs in the bedroom promote habits and make it easier for you to access TV before bed or encourage screen time in a space that should be reserved for rest and sleep.
Do Not Leave the TV on as Background Noise – Having the TV on, even if not watching, can always create a distraction. It is always best to simply leave the TV off.