Once you introduce children to the fantastic world of electronic entertainment, it can be a task to rein it in. I look at the affects it has on my children, children generally and us as parents and if we are managing screen time.
In my introduction to this blog I mentioned I’m into anything ‘techy and gadgety’. So as you can imagine we have the lot in our house. TV, PC, Laptop, Tablets, Mobile phones and smart watches. Let’s be honest, these days we can’t live without them, they play a vital roll in the development of our kids. A way to communicate with friends and family and offer entertainment at the touch of a button. But how is this technology affecting us, our children and our relationships.
Finding the balance
My Wife and I fall foul of managing screen time. It’s hard to manage! On the return home after picking Alfie up from school the first thing he asks is “can I put dinosaurs on?”. He’s always good on the walk home so I allow it. However the issue comes when it’s time to turn it off, meal times and wind down for bed times. A lot of you will be able to relate to this, I know I’m not alone in saying this. It’s without question Alfie has a lot more screen time than we would like. As parents we should be actively pursuing ways to reduce our children’s screen time.
I’m an advocate for all things technology and we should embrace it, our world runs on it. We do, however, need to find ways to balance our lives both online and offline.
The impact of screen time
It’s not all doom and gloom, screen time also has many benefits to our children. According to internetmatters.org “looking at research as a whole, the impact of screen time’s on children’s wellbeing is still being debated. However, now more and more experts suggest that we should focus more on what children are doing online and less on how long they are online.”
What are the benefits of screen time in children
Oxford university carried out a study of 20,000 parents of children between the ages of 2 and 5 and they say screen time may have nothing to do with a child’s ability to thrive.
- Online gaming and activities can enhance teamwork and creativity in children
- The internet gives children access to a huge amount of information to help build their knowledge
- Interacting with computers, tablets and mobile phones can help improve both visual intelligence and hand-eye coordination
- Technology takes away physical barriers to social connections – this is especially important for children who find it hard to interact with new friends or have special interests or special needs.
- Children in households with computers perform better academically than peers who do not have ready access to computers. (internetmatters.org)
- Outcomes for children are better if they benefit from connected technology.
Things to do instead of screen time
We’d all love to live a life that’s ‘just perfect’, family sitting in a living room, TV turned off and just chatting about our daily lives with no distractions and no phones. Unfortunately not every family is like that, we use our phones and tech as our comfort blanket, it distracts us from the real world, but in turn, distracts us from our relationships. Many times Natalie, myself, and all 3 of our children have been in the living room with the TV on and every one of us has been looking at our phone or tablet. That just left the dog, who was more concerned with playing with a spider than anything else.
A few ideas you could use as a distract from technology and to allow you to reconnect with your children and aid their development are:
Kids love getting dirty and making a mess. create some messy play. ARTventurers have some great ideas to try.
Arts and Crafts:
Allow your child’s mind to run wild with creativity. Keep washing up liquid bottles, loo rolls, cereal boxes etc and create something special.
Home work /Workbooks:
There will be something your child needs to improve on, whether its their counting, ABC’s, speech or maybe something else. Workbooks are a great way to help develop your child out of the classroom, this can be accompanied by outdoor activities to compliment their learning
Create a play corner or ‘play space’ with a few toys, once every few days – a week rotate the toys to give them something new to interact and play with.
Whilst writing this, although our children are doing great academically, I realise that as parents, what Natalie and I want to do is really interact with our children, get to know them and how they got on at school, how their day went, what they need further help with. Its all too easy to have a quick “hows your day been” chat and shove them in front of a screen and that’s it. what does that achieve!?
Screen time isnt all that bad, the research shows it isnt, but interacting with our children to find out what they are doing with all of this technology is another matter all together.
Internetmatters.org have created a full guide to help your child get the best from their screen time. You can download the full guide here.