Last year, experts in Aotearoa called for a rethink as current Ministry of Health guidelines do not take into account the realities of modern family life.
Devices are an everyday part of life for many students from primary through to high school. And with this comes the caveat that not all screen time is equal – an hour spent learning to draw or researching a topic for homework has more benefits than an hour spent watching cartoons or playing video games.
Current advice on the Ministry of Health’s website recommends no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time for 5 to 17 years olds.
What are the effects of too much screen time?
The negative effects of social media for teenagers have been well documented. Teens who spend an excess of 3 hours per day on social media are more likely to develop mental health issues including depression, anxiety, aggression and anti-social behaviour.
But how else can excessive screen time affect your tamariki?
Disrupted sleep: screens emit blue light which can have a detrimental effect on sleep cycles. Blue light is more effective (and so more harmful to sleep) at night.
Inactivity: Screen time is by nature a sedentary activity. More time being physically inactive on screens can lead to a loss of health and fitness. In some cases, this can lead to obesity.
Behavioural problems: Children who spend more than 2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games or using their computer or smartphone are more likely to have social, emotional and attention problems. In extreme cases, tamariki can develop gaming or social media addictions which require professional help.
What can you do to limit screen time?
Here at Kidz Therapy, we are big believers in getting kids outside in nature as much as possible. Getting out for a walk or to kick a ball around at the local park are good family bonding activities and an easy way to keep the whanau active. It also provides your tamariki with their daily boost of Vitamin D – essential for supporting muscles, nerves and your immune system.
But in the depths of winter, with another wave of Covid-19 rolling through New Zealand, getting out of the house is often easier said than done. So here are 5 simple steps to help you keep control of screen time in your whanau.
Model good behaviour: As we’ve mentioned before, parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. Set a good example for your children by limiting your own screen time.
Keep the TV off as much as possible: Don’t have the TV on in the background all day. Children’s attention is naturally drawn to screens, no matter what is on. Only have the TV on when you are actively watching a show.
Get involved in your child’s screen time: A TV show or video game is an easy way to keep the kids busy while you cook dinner or get some chores done. But try to make some time to co-surf or watch with your tamariki. As well as allowing you to keep tabs on what they’re doing, you can also use this time to teach them how to spot fake news and stay safe online.
No screens in the bedroom: TVs, computers and phones in your child’s bedroom will naturally lead to more screen time. Keep screens in the lounge or another family area of the house, especially at night.
No screens at meal times: Meal times should be used as family time. Use this time to catch up on each other’s day. If your family struggles for meal time conversation, try starting a family ritual like “one thing that made me happy today”. It’s an excellent conversation starter and a good reminder to be thankful for the little things in life.
Screens are a part of everyday life in 2022. Today’s generation of 5 – 17-year-olds are the first to grow up as native computer and smartphone users, used to having all the information on the internet at their fingertips.
Use these tips to help your child learn that screens, like most things in life should be used in moderation.
However, if you’ve tried our tips and still feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, get in touch to find out how Kidz Therapy can help. Our Therapy team are experts in family and parenting concerns.
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