Watching television or scrolling on our phones has become a subconscious habit to relax in the evening, after a long day at work. However, how is this taught behaviour affecting our children?
Here at St Peter’s Prep, extra curriculum activities are an essential part of our experience as one of the top private schools in Devon. If you’re struggling to reduce your child’s screen time during their free time, we offer tips that can help!
What is Screen Time?
Screen time is any time that you use a device which has a screen. It could include:
● A computer
● A T.V.
● A tablet
● A video game console
The effects of screen time is a highly debated subject, with scientific research yet to confirm its impact on the brain and other areas of our health, especially for younger children.
Some studies show that it has adverse effects on children’s development. In contrast, other research, such as reports released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) suggest that there is little evidence to confirm it’s ‘toxic’ to health.
Are There Any Benefits of Screen Time?
There are plenty of advantages of screen time, as many devices offer children the opportunity to research new hobbies, to be creative as well as connect with loved ones who live far away. Furthermore, during times of COVID-19 and social distancing, many schools would be lost without the use of computers and laptops to provide education to school children.
Dr Max Davie suggested in a BBC report that parents and carers tend to be made to feel that there is something ‘indefinably wrong’ about the use of screens. It all relies on balance.
The Disadvantages of Too Much Screen Time
However, many parents understandably feel as though screen time is interrupting their relationship with their children, as it takes over daily interactions. Some report it impacts their child’s mood, focus and sleep routine as well as having other effects.
An essential part of a child’s development is to have face-to-face social interactions, and it cannot be substituted for screens. If screen time is taking over their interactions, their usage may be a problem.
Furthermore, some parents feel that time which could be spent doing an energetic activity is wasted by sitting and being immersed in a device.
They’re also concerned about what children are exposed to on the internet. For more guidance on how to keep children safe online, take a look at our blog below.
A BBC report in 2019 released the guidance provided by the RCPCH, which directs the training for child medicine specialists, for managing screen time and children.
In short, the RCPCH recommends that parents and carers shouldn’t heavily focus on their child’s screen time. However, they published a list of questions to evaluate if your child’s health is negatively impacted by too much screen time.
These questions were:
● ‘Is your family’s screen time under control?’
● ‘Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?’
● ‘Does screen use interfere with sleep?’
● ‘Are you able to control snacking during screen time?’
If you’re concerned about screen time and would like to decrease your child’s time on devices, take a look at our tips below!
Most advice suggests that the earlier age you limit screen time for your child, the more likely it will remain low as your child gets older.
When children are younger, it is easier to simply deny access to screen time as it hasn’t become a habit yet. Ideally, you want to refrain by providing them with their own devices until they’re older. You should also be in charge of which games and apps they can use.
Lead By Example
As an adult, it is up to you to be the example you want your child to follow. Therefore, if you do tend to come home and spend the evening emailing or chatting on social media instead of exercising or engaging in conversation with family, it may be time to make a lifestyle change.
It is inevitable for children to model the behaviour of their parents and guardians, so they will no doubt reflect your lifestyle choices in their behaviour.
Accept It Will Be Challenging
As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure your child follows healthy behaviours and habits. At times where this may not always be the easiest or the most fun option, but it is essential that you follow through with your decisions.
One way to help children feel less overwhelmed by change is to explain what is happening and why, while avoiding overemphasising the situation. By presenting the reasoning behind changes, it will help them to choose similar paths when they can make their own decisions.
Introduce Other Activities
A great way to reduce screen time is to replace it with something more fun. Children love to spend time with their loved ones; it is invaluable to them.
Merely setting the time aside each day to be with them will quickly grab their attention, as well as create many beautiful memories.
If they have shown interest in a sport, a musical instrument, reading, playing outside, or any activity, make sure to fully embrace their interests and encourage them to do it when they can.
If you would like to provide more of a routine for your children, scheduling set times where they’re allowed to use their devices is essential.
Perhaps there is a favourite programme they love to watch. Allocate time to watch it daily but with the incentive to do something else after. At the weekend, schedule in time where your child can play their computer games but then organise a walk for later.
Always explain these routines to your child, so they know what to expect. If they see how the day is supposed to run, there will be less opportunity for them to put up a fight.
Treat Screen Time as a Privilege
By introducing set times to use screens, it also encourages the perception that screen time is a privilege as opposed to a necessity.
It is also essential to avoid using screen time as a reward if you’re introducing a routine. Instead, use other incentives as rewards to reinforce good behaviour. Try to keep the amount of screen time the same each day.
Keeping on top of any changes is key to reducing screen time. For it to become more habitual to use screens less, it needs to be consistently included in day to day life.
A crucial part of reducing the use of screens as a family is to open up conversation. One thing you will want to avoid is creating a surveillance- type situation. When children feel like they can’t do something and don’t understand why, it can cause hidden behaviours.
Instead, ensure that they feel safe and secure to talk to you about any issues they come across.
If your child is older and they’re used to unlimited screen time, it can be more challenging to reduce their use of screens.
Instead, you may have to talk through the usage and come together to determine the amount of screen time, as well as encouraging them to spend more time doing activities which require exercise and social interaction as well as those which are just generally fun!
How much screen time do you allow your child to have? Why not share your thoughts with the network of other parents on our social media channels?
If you’re interested in discovering the traditional and progressive education we offer at St Peter’s Prep, please get in touch with Rachel Elliott, Director of Admissions & Marketing, on 01395 280335 or email email@example.com