The current pandemic situation means that children and adults alike are all spending more time using devices with screens than we do usually.
Whilst we are so lucky that technology is enabling us all to keep working, socialising and learning right now, it is more important than ever to manage and optimise the time we spend using our screens.
Not only do we need to make sure we do this for ourselves, our kids also need our help to do the same.
Why do we need to manage our screen time?
It’s common knowledge that the use of screens can impact our health – both physically and mentally. However, it isn’t a case of screen = bad and no-screen = good. It’s how we use our screens and what we use them for that determines whether they have a positive or negative impact on our lives.
Here’s a couple of points to consider around why managing screen time is important…
Sitting down for too long, badly
Screen time is usually, but not always, paired with sitting still and inactivity in general. Too much time sitting – and too much time sitting in a bad position, is not good for us physically. It can be bad for posture and lead to weight gain and lower fitness levels.
The solution is to make sure to take regular breaks – we factor in a lot of breaks on all of our online courses to ensure that kids are able to get up, stretch their muscles and get a little bit of activity in, between bouts of learning. Also, we recommend that you are always sitting comfortably whilst using a screen and make sure that your laptop or device is positioned in a way that avoids hand strain or bad posture.
Mindless instead of mindful
What your child uses a screen for matters – whether that’s work or play. Using a screen for socialising or having fun is just as important as it is for learning – especially right now. But the quality of that socialising, playing or learning matters.
A video call with a friend or family member is a much better way to use a screen for socialising than using text-based messaging. A game that helps your child develop skills and learn kills two birds with one stone – and the quality of the education material they are watching makes all the difference when it comes to learning.
Timing is everything
Using screens just before bed can cause sleep issues. This is because the blue-light being emitted from screens lowers the amount of the sleep hormone melatonin being produced in our bodies, which makes us feel less drowsy, and in turn, makes it harder for us to fall asleep.
It’s best to turn on blue-light filters in the evenings when using screens and make sure to stop using screens altogether, a couple of hours before bedtime.
Tips for managing screen time with your kids:
1. Discuss the pros of limiting screen time with your children
As parents, it’s up to us to make decisions and set boundaries for our kids – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t involve our children in this process. Doing so may mean that your children find it easier to accept the limitations put in place.
2. Encourage good screen-usage
Using screens actively for learning and socialising is healthy screen time. Video calling friends and family, watching videos to learn a new skill or facilitate physical activities – or using a screen to create something like an animation should all be encouraged. However make sure these fit around real-world interactions, sleep, meal times, and similar offline activities rather than the other way round.
3. Schedule in screen-free time
Agree, as a family, to have some time each day when screens are entirely banned. Mealtimes and a few hours for bed are ideal times to consider.
4. Create screen-free zones around your home
Try making a rule that your kids can only use screens in whatever room you are also in so that you can be aware of what they are doing and this way it will be easier for you to manage their screen time. You could also restrict screen time to only certain rooms ie. the living room, so that everywhere else in the home becomes a screen-free zone to enjoy other more analogue activities.