By Virginia Hrywnak, DO- Deputy Executive Director of Healthy Learning Paths, imperfect parent of 2 school-aged daughters, family physician, avid reader, and hiker.
How much is too much screen time? It depends on the age of your child, but in general, it’s up to us as parents to limit screen time for our kids. Cautionary tales of technology addiction abound ranging from the 4 year old British girl that needed therapy for her iPad addiction to stories of teens who spend most of the day and night playing video games.
In All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum offers this simple, but powerful advice that reminds us about life lessons beyond the screen.
“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
Look around at any doctor’s office, store, or restaurant and most kids and adults are on smartphones or tablets. Only three out of ten kids ages 8 to 18 say that their parents set limits on their media use and stick to them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation study. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). The increased use of technology by children is having a startling effect on their social skills and social emotional development. Data from a Common Sense research study in 2012 shows the majority of teachers feel increased screen time has negatively impacted their student’s attention spans, writing skills, and homework completion. So what’s a parent to do?
Here’s a good place to start:
1. Encourage 60 minutes or more of active play, ideally outdoors, every day.
2. Talk with your kids about empathy, making friends, and caring for others- it’s a life skill that needs to be taught. And it won’t be taught on a phone, tablet, computer, or TV.
3. Encourage your kids to be creative with music, art, dance, and movement. These types of activities have been shown to help brain development. Not crafty? That’s ok- keep it simple and fun!
4. Unplug as a family. Make meal time unplugged, parents included, and no screen time in the 1-2 hours before bed. Limit screen time for kids. Don’t hand them your phone.
5. Make it a house rule- No screens in the bedrooms.
6. Banish the electronic babysitter. Don’t let you or your kids zone out on screen time when you could be having face to face talking, listening, laughing, and just hanging out time.
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts, perspective, and insight in the comments section.