I have read my fair share of books on screen time and how it influences us, and while I learned a lot, one prevalent factor stuck out. We can control our screen habits, it just takes the will to do so.
Johan Hari’s stolen focus, taught me a lot about how social media is created to trap us, to keep us staring at the screen, from algorithms to using our emotions against us, the social media world and its grip can be devastating to the mind.
In Screen Kids, I learned the effects of screen time on the brains of children, and how any more than an hour of screen time a day is potentially shrinking our children’s brains, and drastically reducing their development.
But I realised as much as handheld devices have changed our lives, ultimately, we are still in control.
it’s just whether or not you choose to take control.
What does too much screen time look like?
A simple Google search will tell you that screen time for adults, should not exceed 2 hours per day.
For children, they are based on the research from the American Academy of Pediatrics. , children under the age of 2 years old, should have No screen time.
children 16 and under should have 1 hour a day and no more.
If you are reading this and analyzing now, how much screen time your kids have and perhaps coming to the conclusion that your kids are having too much like I did, never fear.
from my experience with five boisterous children suffering from too much screen time and its side effects, I have found that you can quickly reverse it.
The symptoms of too much screen time in children.
- Behavioural problems
- Poor sleep or disrupted sleep patterns
- Impaired academic performance
The symptoms my children suffered from too much screen time
- behavioural problems, for example: more fighting, snapping at each other, short temper and tantrums.
- sleep patterns were disturbed: My three-year-old would watch shows with his older siblings at night before bed I noticed his sleep patterns were severely disturbed to the point where he couldn’t get to sleep until midnight.
- lower academic performance. this impacted my three school-age boys, The most affected was my 6-year-old, the difference in his ability to learn new concepts and think and talk things through was so much improved, that it has made me vigilant that he shouldn’t take part in any handheld device as his screen time, such as Nintendo switch which my boys play on the weekends. (You will read later the changes I made in my house for the whole family which helped him)
The symptoms of too much screen time in adults.
The symptoms in adults are alarming, considering that it alters our ability to process emotions.
screens keep us lazy
and make us fat.
our brains are shrinking.
our attention spans are shorter than a goldfish’s.
we get stuck in a cycle of distraction from everything that is important in our lives.
That may sound farfetched, but when you put it all together, the research on how we feel, and the knowledge social media researchers have when developing their ability to influence us, that is really what it does.
Without excessive screen time, we can.
- We can think about things for longer.
- We are more emotionally stable and work through emotionally trying moments in our days without needing ( or desiring) distraction from social media or screen time.
- We are less angry, less anxious and less stressed.
- We sleep more.
- We move more.
- We make more eye contact, which boosts happy hormones.
- We spend more time pursuing things to take up our time which increases brain development and keeps it stable.
The impact screens have on our lives as adults is terrifying.
and if you aren’t terrified.
you should be.
If an adult’s ability to process emotional stimuli is altered dramatically by the overuse of screens, also affecting our irritability, distraction, connectivity, and physical well-being, what kind of parents are we?
creating healthy screen and media habits in the family.
here are things you can adopt to create easy patterns for the family to control their screen time.
- Create a family screen time block schedule
- Daily routines help the family know when to expect screen time and when not to.
- Set screen time rules. No screens at meal times, no screen 30 minutes before bed, No devices in bedrooms.
- schedule a monthly detox weekend or day each month. when wifi is turned off and devices are internet-free or removed altogether.
- set an afternoon each weekend that is screen-free for the whole family.
- No devices before chores!
- set nagging rules!
Why time-blocking words for setting screen time limits in the home
The idea that we are destined to binge-watch or be glued to devices is solely one we create.
Suppose you create times of day when there are NO SCREENS.
This stays the same, every day.
then you reduce the amount of asking the kids to do as this becomes a well-known rule in the home.
EVERYONE in the home knows, when screen time is an option and when it isn’t.
By creating a time block system, you create when and how long until the time block ends, and the screens are turned off.
It may be hard at first,
Your kids will complain, and maybe even you will wish for longer to distract them. Still, ultimately you are improving their ability to self-entertain, creating a better family dynamic and increasing their learning potential.
Use routines to earn screen time
This is for kids and adults alike.
routines work well with your time block system.
a routine is a set of events you set in your home.
once you practice them long enough, they become a habit.
routines that help you control your family’s screen time could be:
- No screens after dinner on weeknights. introduce nighttime quiet time, with books, cards or quiet activities.
- no screens before 2 p.m. on weekends. set quotas for outside time, or chores.
- Screen time only occurs after chores are done. If it’s 2:45 on a Saturday and the child asks for screen time, knowing they are inside the screen time window but haven’t completed their daily chores yet, they must be done first.
Rules to help limit screen time
it is tempting to let kids cycle through hours of Netflix TV shows. don’t allow this. set a timer for 30-90 minutes and turn the TV off.
don’t allow young children to use devices in bedrooms.
this is a big one for us. I just made the decision to not have family screen time be an individual pursuit.
I wanted screen time to be shared.
I wanted to be in control and I wanted it to be viewed as a family affair.
take a day off.
taking a day off screens may be met with resistance at first. it was a change in my family.
for me, it made me reflect on how much I and my children had become reliant on screens for relaxation and entertainment.
set a day of the week, to be screen-free, In our home, It is Saturdays, the day when we level the house or have bbq’s to host or attend, to be honest, these days are followed by Sunday, a day we go to church and then the whole family comes home to relax with a nap and movie.
set a nagging rule
this is a rule to help you not have to put up with endless asking for screen time from children when they are bored.
this is what can make a parent dread the idea of limiting screen time.
what you need to do is set a rule in your home for nagging.
in my home if my children come to me and ask for TV, when they know it isn’t the screen time window it is met with a chore.
cleaning the toilet, hanging washing, cleaning a window. Whatever needs doing, make this a rule and stick to it, and you will find your children ask less and less to watch or use a device when you introduce new screen time rules.
Bad behaviour from screen addiction
the truth is, your children will most likely have bad behaviour from too many screens.
you can always spot an over-indulgence in screens in young children. It’s much like a permanent sugar high, perhaps even worse. the child struggles to calm down and to listen.
they are easily distracted, and can’t pay attention.
In short, they have a very short attention span, and their ability to learn and pay attention to detail gets less and less over time, and they can be more agitated, frustrated and angry.
These behaviours won’t go away in a few days but will take weeks to get better.
if you stick to time blocking, setting new daily routines and making nagging rules, you can in the space of a week or two, set new rules in your home.
if you desire to see an improvement in your children, these rules and practices will help you.
Read this post to help you on your child training journey.