The New School Year: Limiting Screen Time
I know. I am starting to sound like an old fogey. I recognize that at 62, I am an immigrant to the land of Facebook, smart phones, texting, sexting, video games, and the internet. (At least I now know what “twerking” refers too! Thank you Miley!)
But I did grow up with television, the video screen of the 1960’s. And now, as then, it is important for parents to think about how much is too much. A recent study found that kids from birth to 8 years of age are spending on average 2 hours a day in front of a two dimensional video screen. Teens are spending up to 6 hours a day in front of the tube.
I am equally concerned about kids that are spending every second texting their friends. I frequently see families at dinner—each member staring at their smart phone looking at their Facebook page, responding to texts, or surfing. What about talking to each other?
It’s important to understand that too much screen time is associated with:
- Obesity. The more video your youngster watches, the greater her risk is of becoming overweight. Childhood obesity can set up adults for a lifetime of health problems.
- Sleep problems. Too much screen time is associated with problems falling asleep and staying up too late. Tired kids are cranky and have difficulty concentrating at school.
- Behavioral problems. Exposure to violent video games has been associated with increased aggression in children.
- Poor academic performance. Kids aren’t doing their homework when they are wired in and up.
- Less time for creative play. Little kids, when they are not hooked on entertainment learn how to entertain themselves—remember playing outside?
With the start of school, it’s a good time for parents to consider—how much is too much screen time? What is reasonable? The new school year is a good time to establish some limits and stick to them.
Remember, kids will nickel and dime you into bankruptcy. They will test your limits. “Dad—just 5 more minutes! I need to finish this level!”, “Sally wants to know if I will meet her after school!”, “Just one more show! I’m not tired yet!” and so on. One inch will become two inches; two inches will become three inches, and so on—until you don’t even remember what you said in the beginning!
Here are some tips:
Stick to your guns! Set a reasonable limit and then stick to it! Not one minute longer, ever! If your kids know that you mean business, they won’t test you forever. But once they find a hole in the fence, they will widen it until they can fit through it. I went through World War III with my youngest daughter when she was 9 years old. She wanted the latest craze then—Nintendo. I stuck to my guns and wouldn’t allow her to have one (I did let her rent one every 6 weeks for the weekend). As an adult, she thanked me for holding the line.
Eliminate background TV. If no one is watching the TV, turn it off. Otherwise, someone will probably sit themselves in front of the tube, even if they hadn’t planned on watching.
Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Kids that have these devices in their bedrooms are on their screens more than if they are located in family public places. Duh! Plus it is hard to monitor their use when their bedroom doors are closed. Don’t let them hoodwink you into putting one in their rooms!
Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. Letting kids eat in front of the TV or computer increases screen time, encourages mindless eating, and can result in pop spilled all over the keyboard!
Limit Smartphone use. How about banning phones at meal times? How about leaving phones in their holsters when you are spending time together? Check out this link for some helpful suggestions-- https://www.lookout.com/resources/reports/smartphone-family-guide.
What rules do you have in your family?