If you’ve got kids, you’ll be only too aware of the increasing influence of TV, video games and the internet on their lives. Naturally we all want to create a good balance between screen time and other hobbies, and today’s guest post looks at positive steps we can take as parents to encourage healthy habits in our children – and ourselves too!
TV, video games and the internet are excellent sources of entertainment and education for both kids and adults, but too much exposure can have unhealthy effects on the mind and body. Learning has become even more fun with the advent of computers, laptops, tablets and other handheld devices, but they bring along some threats as well. In addition to issues around internet safety, physical activity is minimised to a great extent, which can lead to problems such as obesity, diabetes, eye strain, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression.
In fact, children aged between 8 and 12 years play video games for about 13 hours per week. And children in the United States watch TV for an average of four hours every day, which is double the recommendation from the American Academy of Paediatrics.
If you’re worried your child is spending too much time on TV, video games or the internet, check out the following tips for instilling healthy screen time habits. It’s also a great idea to try them yourself, and develop some healthy habits along with your child.
- Your child’s room should never be home to a TV, laptop, computer, smartphone or any other hand held device. Limit screens to shared family areas, so you can monitor use and stay involved in your child’s online interactions.
- Become a role model. If you ask your child to watch TV for only an hour a day, make sure you follow the same rule.
- Encourage physical activities. Take your children out and allow them to do anything that they enjoy doing; sports, a family walk, or a simple trip to the park are all great options. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), every child should perform some kind of physical activity for 30 to 60 minutes every day.
- Understand your child’s likes and dislikes. If your child loves helping you prepare dinner, get them involved; if they like helping dad wash the car, encourage them do that. Get them joining in with family life in a fun, relaxed way and you’ll encourage them to step away from the screens by their own choice.
- Provide your children with lots of alternatives to screen time. Story books, games, toys, puzzles and craft projects are all great options that the whole family can join in with.
- Create a routine; allocate a specific time when your kids can watch TV, play video games, use screens to revise for exams, or surf the internet. Create a list of Netflix TV shows and encourage your children to watch them during an allocated time. Aim to follow the rule yourself too!
- Communicate with your kids about the downsides of technology and screen time; this will help them to understand why it’s important to strike a balance, and also reinforce the message that you’re there to help if they have any questions.
It is important for parents to be vigilant of their kid’s screen habits, and to encourage healthy attitudes to TV, video games and internet use. By taking proactive steps to balance technology with other hobbies and family time, you can help to ensure your childs’ mental and physical well-being is not compromised in the long run, and keep screen time as a fun source of entertainment for all the family.
What are your tips for developing healthy habits with TV, video games and the internet?
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