Parents hear the message all the time; Too much screen time is bad for kids. However, it is hard to heed the warning when parents themselves are slaves to the device in their pocket. Limiting screen time within your home will not only benefit your child, but your own health and well being, too. Like exercise and dieting, the hardest part is getting started. The second hardest part is sticking with the plan.
To get started, it might help to understand just how beneficial it will be to limit screen time for yourself and your family. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that screen time is directly related to psychological difficulties even when accompanied with appropriate levels of physical activity. With decreased physical activity, the risk for psychological difficulty increased even more. A study conducted by Iowa State University found that these psychological difficulties decrease with limited screen time. Children average about 40 hours of screen time per week beyond the time spent at school in front of a computer. Making small changes in screen time and parental monitoring can have great benefits such as increased weekly sleep, improved school performance, improved prosocial behavior, decreased aggressive behavior, and lowering BMI/obesity risk.
How do parents begin to make these changes? The first step is to evaluate your own screen time. Do you look at your phone while your children are talking to you? Are you watching TV or using a device during meals, short car rides, visits with friends/relatives? Is the TV left on all day? Start by making small changes in your own behavior to begin modeling the healthy lifestyle you would like to see in your family. A YouTube video exploring the effects of screen time in the adult world has gone viral and encourages everyone to look up from your phone and experience the world firsthand.
The next step would be to have a family meeting and talk openly with your children and spouse about screen time, realistic goals for limitation, and expectations. It is important to note, that limiting screen time does not produce immediate results. Parents may not notice differences in their children as a result of making these changes. Like diet and exercise, it is a slow process but an overall healthy choice that has far reaching benefits. ParentsWare, a leading provider of parental monitoring and guidance applications for families, has developed an outstanding app called OurPact (www.ourpact.com). With this app, families can work together to teach responsibility through technology. OurPact will help you determine what is the appropriate screen time for your family and how to the balance risks and rewards of technology. Encouraging communication and compromise among families, OurPact allows parents to limit screen time, create schedules, block or allow internet/app usage, and create a dashboard with all of your children’s profiles in one spot. While developing your family’s screen time goals, it is vital that parents follow the rules as well. Modeling positive behavior is the oldest and most effective teaching method. Create these healthy habits as a family and watch as relationships improve and health and happiness abound.
Look Up From Your Phone
American Academy of Pediatrics Study
Our Pact App
Iowa State Study