Has screen time invaded your kiddo’s day again? We’ve just come off #ReadAcrossAmericaWeek with the #NationalDayOfUnplugging ending that week. There were probably lots and lots of activities, both inside and out, for your child to try. Now schools across the country have been shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak. With children remaining home you may have heard:
There’s NOTHING to DO….
(imagine whining on the 1st line; exasperation on the 2nd)
Sure handing over a device or sitting them in front of a screen might sound very tempting. Here’s why you might want to resist the temptation!
Then and Now…
Children already view a lot more screen time than their parents did each and every day. For example in 1997, the average child between the ages of zero and two spent 1.32 hours/day in front of a screen, according to a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA). In 2014, that screen time increased to 3.05 hours per day.
Children nowadays are not spending time outdoors. A recent study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute appearing in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine discovered that almost 50% of preschoolers lacked even one parent-supervised outdoor play session/day. Sadly, on average, children aged 10 to 16 now spend only 12.6 minutes a day on vigorous outdoor activity compared with 10.4 waking hours being relatively motionless.
These two statistics alone fly in the face of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations that children younger than 18 months should not use any screen-related media except for video chatting, and that until age 5 children should be limited to one hour of screen time per day.
Play with Your Child Every Day
The AAP is advising its members prescribe ‘PLAYING every day’ to help their patients during the first two years of their well-child visits to boost their social-emotional, cognitive, language and self-regulation skills.
Research shows they can, and the “prescription” to write is simple: “Play with your child every day.”
Back in My Day…
You know, in the Dark Ages parents didn’t have to worry about screen time and their kids. Screens were a relatively new phenomena. Since I’m a grandma-type, it’s probably expected I begin stories with, “When I was a kid…” There have been so, so many changes in the last 60+ years! I’ll focus just on the television.
Watching old, black-and-white movies or TV shows doesn’t seem strange to me at all. I vividly remember when my family bought our first color television set. It was a very exciting event! The screen was housed in a large, wooden console. The whole thing took up a good portion of a wall! Watching television was novel and different; it was definitely a family event
When I was a kid we had one television. There was no remote control for it. If we wanted to change the channel we had to get up off the couch and manually change it. Cable TV? Yeah no, if reception was good we had 6 channels.*
My sister and I would look through the TV Guide to see when our favorite shows were on. Why did we care? Well there wasn’t any way to stream or record them to watch later. IF we were lucky they might rerun the episode during the summer rerun season.
Here a Screen, There a Screen, Everywhere a Screen….
Fast forward to now and screens are everywhere. In addition to televisions, there are cell phones, tablets, (desktop) computers, Xbox and other gaming consoles–so many electronic devices you can’t escape them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates of suicide, obesity and depression in youth skyrocket with more than three hours of screen time per day. Unfortunately, for school-age children especially, that limit is easily surpassed. Teens spend nearly 5 hours on screens excluding using screens for school and homework.
Technology definitely has its place and these devices serve a purpose. However, it’s important to realize they are products and made to have as much impact on our daily lives as possible. Every family has to decide what’s best for their family. But being aware, having relevant information (recall: Information is POWER) will give you the tools you need to make correct decisions. It is my goal, after reading this post you will be able to use the suggested activities to bring a sense of digital balance back to child’s life.
There’s a never-ending list of activities and experiences to do with your children for all those unplugged, off-screen hours you’ll find. And absolutely feel free to include chores in this list!
Alternatives for screen time can include:
- All outdoor activities!
- ART activities
- Musical development (instruments &/or singing) and Movement (ie Dance Party!)
- Board Games
- Helping prepare meals
- Play dates
- Puppet shows
- Putting puzzles together
- Reading books or listening to stories for example StoryTime!
- Dictating/writing a stories
- Making an obstacle courses
- Playing I Spy or License Plate Bingo during long road trips
- Sensory activities–like playdough, colored rice or water tables
- Field trips–local library, children’s museum, parks, indoor play gyms
- And many, many more!
Kudos to you for whatever your reasons are for adding more hands-on activities for your child. PLAY is your kiddo’s brain’s preferred way of learning. It is essential for them to THRIVE. Don’t worry about eliminating all screen time. That’s not reasonable or realistic. Make a goal of adding a few minutes a day screen-free. Your child probably won’t notice and more than likely will be engrossed and engaged in PLAY just like Grandbub #1 below!
Yours in PLAY!
*KOMO, channel 4 (ABC local affiliate), KING, channel 5 (NBC local affiliate), KIRO, channel 7 (CBS local affiliate), KCTS, channel 9 (PBS local affiiate), KTNT, channel 11 (now KSTW), and KTVW, channel 13 (now KCPQ).