Are you are battling with your children over how much time they spend playing video games, texting, using social media and Tik Tok? Do they experience meltdowns when you take the device away? If so, you are within the same mine field as most parents and people who are noticing drawbacks from too much screen time.
And what about you? Are you finding yourself spending more and more time on your computer, smart phone, iPad, or social media? Is your spouse, friends or family constantly trying pull you out of your phone or computer screen?
Social media and the internet, as well as all the modern gadgets and gizmos can be especially useful and have their place in our lives, especially in the past year since Covid-19 has kept us isolated and dependent on our screens for online school, conferences, medical appointments, counseling sessions, and most social interactions.
If you notice yourself checking your devices constantly, having more anxiety than before you increased usage, and your children throw temper tantrums when a “no” is given for longer screen time, then you know there is a problem.
But how much screen time is too much and what are the negative consequences?
According to the Mayo Clinic, children under two should have no screen time at all. They also argue that kids from age two to twelve should stop after one hour, and teenagers and adults should shut off the electronics after two hours.
You might think these numbers are not doable, but when you think about the negative effects of too much screen time, these numbers may not seem too outrageous.
According to neuroscience research, our brains are continuously developing, even into our thirties. Our neural pathways are developing more and more rapidly, and the brain continuously forms new connections as we learn.
It is important to protect the brain. Computers, iPads, smart phones, well, most anything with a screen affects the white matter of a child’s brain, if they stare at it long enough. Studies show that too much screen-time can lower language and thinking skills. Alarmingly, scientific research shows that if a child spends seven hours or more with their face in a screen, there is a a thinning in areas of brain’s vital for learning and problem solving. healthmatters.nyp.org/what-does-too-much-screen-time-do-to-childrens-brains.
In addition to the use of iPads for school and the necessary screen time, it can be tempting to let the kids use the devices in the grocery store, the car, and then at home.
But take action and limit use. Opt for safer ways for kids to occupy their time.
Tips for limiting screen time
Remember the old days when kids ran into the backyard and found things to do? A rickety old swing, a giant box, croquet, a treehouse, or a plain old ball and bat. What about kick ball or badminton? Kids today might think these games were dumped onto earth from an alien planet, but they also might enjoy them if introduced to these games.
Encourage kids to play outside for a while and get some good old sunshine and exercise. You might want to go outside with them and play with them, modeling how you used to enjoy the outdoors as a kid.
Remember, they won't be kids for very long. Enjoy them.
Put a limit on the use of yours and your children’s screen time using a timer, because time can add up quickly on these devices.
Don’t allow phones, iPads, or computers at the table during meals. If you don’t eat together every night, why not make this a new tradition as well. You might be surprised at how enjoyable this quality time with the family can be without electronics.
Being creative in finding new things to do to replace screen time, rather than arguing or always saying no will go farther in helping kids replace the screen with more creativity. This might be challenging at first, but don’t give up.
In summary, raising kids today with so much technology at the ready is not easy because social media, the internet, and all the electronic gaming devices vie for their attention. It takes work but limiting screen time for a healthier brain is well worth it in the end.
Their adult selves will thank you!
I’d love to hear how you have curtailed screen time in yourself and your kids.
Until next time,
Lori Helms LMHC