New technologies can make us both excited and scared. Is it amazing that our 4 year olds know how to work iPads, or is it worrisome that too much time “playing” with them might jeopardize their health? There are pros and cons to both arguments, based on the study conducted by NewScientist.com. Here are some ways screen time is affecting children, as well as tips for how to make sure they are getting the best of it.
Short term benefits:
A happy, quiet child at the dinner table, in the waiting room, or at the grocery store.
Long term benefits:
An article published in 2014 by NewScientist.com found “A survey of more than 1000 parents with children aged 3 to 5 and their teachers, out this month, backs up the idea that tablets can promote learning. What is becoming clear is that it’s not the technologies themselves we should be worried out but how they are used and how people interact with them.”
It is important to choose the right apps that are educational and not simply hand the screen to the child. A few great apps are “My First Words”, “Writing Wizard”, as well as a host of apps from www.superduperinc.com.
Risks of too much screen time:
Children who spend extended periods of time in front of screens may have a shorter attention span and they may not have an opportunity to fully develop their creativity, social skills, and motor skills.
How to reduce screen time:
The number one way to reduce our children’s screen time is to reduce our own screen time in their presence. We all know that technology is the way of the world and screens are an essential part of the day for just about all of us. However, it is a good idea to try to put the screens away when the kids come home. A good place to start is by implementing a “no screens at the table” rule. Mealtimes are the optimal time for families to connect by talking about their day. Children learn about language and conversational skills during these interactions.
Controlled screen time:
“Everything in moderation” – It is very difficult to put the screens away indefinitely, so it may be helpful to allot particular times of day for screen time. For example, Billy can watch TV while mommy is getting ready in the morning or Bobby can play a game on daddy’s phone for 10 minutes after he completes his chores. Perhaps extra screen time is allowed at grandma’s house as a treat to make visits to grandma’s house extra special. Parents can set a timer on the iPhone or iPad which actually shuts down the game after the timer goes off.
Alternatives to screens:
Lego, puzzles, blocks, colouring, Mr. Potato Head, dress-up, toy cars, dolls, hide and seek, playing outside, reading a book, family board games, or simply, playing with a cardboard box!
Let Kids be Kids!
Children have the rest of their lives to be addicted to screens, like the rest of us, yet they have such a small window of time to play with toys. Let’s help kids be kids again by replacing ‘family screen time’ with good, old-fashioned ‘family time’!