Friday, July 24, 2015

Screen Time: How is it affecting our kids?

So, admittedly I do let my kids interact with screens. Sue me. My oldest, works for his screen time. If he makes his bed in the morning without being told he gets 30 minutes. If he takes a shower (complete with washing his hair and using soap on his body) without being reminded, he gets 30 mins. He can do a variety of other chores to earn screen time, such as watching his little brother, folding laundry, etc. He can choose whether he wants to earn a cash allowance, or time on any one of his electronic devices, and he has a few. For his birthday this year his grandparents got him a chromebook, and I gave him an old iphone 4 we had lying around and paid for the first months worth of service on it. At $15/month it's costing him less than his old tracfone and he just gives me the cash the beginning of each month. He's 9 by the way, and he pays his own phone bill.

Now, my almost 2 year old is a different case entirely. I rarely if ever let him use a phone/tablet and I've never let him use my computer. He doesn't watch very much TV when he's with me, but does get a decent amount of screen time when hanging out with his brother or grandparents. On the phone/tablet he mostly just colors or watches an elmo video. As far as TV he usually ignores it to play with toys if it's on.

All this being said, I try not to use electronics to babysit my kids, but as someone who at one point was a single mom, sometimes you need to take a gosh darn shower, and you know what? Thomas the Tank Engine is  GREAT babysitter. 30 minutes of peace and quiet while you make dinner or take a shower is priceless. So, uh, don't judge the mom who is putting her kid in front of some PBS show to have 5 minutes to herself. It's a hell of a lot better than strangling her kid because she can't do it anymore. Everybody needs a minute to breathe sometimes.

No doubt about it — TV, interactive video games, and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment for kids. But too much screen time can have unhealthy side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, and that kids older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming, and if you can meet those requirements then MORE POWER TO YOU. I'm proud of you, really I am. But don't feel guilty if you wanna pee by yourself and put on some Martha Speaks for your toddler. They probably won't grow up to be a psychopath. Just make sure you balance it with other fun stuff, like reading and playing outside.

Don't let the TV parent your kids. You're the parent. Just like you wouldn't want some stranger telling your kids what to believe about religion and morals etc. You don't want public programming to tell your kids what they should learn and when. It's also been proven that too much screen time is detrimental to kids, especially under 2.

Too much screen time can:

  • Make it hard for your child to sleep at night
  • Raise your child's risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression
  • Raise your child's risk of gaining too much weight (obesity)

Screen time increases your child's risk of obesity because:

  • Sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active.
  • TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in ads that are aimed at kids are high in sugar, salt, or fats.
  • Children eat more when they are watching TV, especially if they see ads for food.
Here are some ways to help limit your kids screen time:

  • Stock the room in which you have your TV with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, kids' magazines, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.) to encourage kids to do something other than watch the tube.
  • Keep TVs out of kids' bedrooms.
  • Turn off the TV during meals.
  • Don't allow your child to watch TV while doing homework.
  • Treat TV as a privilege that kids need to earn — not a right that they're entitled to. Tell them that TV viewing is allowed only after chores and homework are completed.
  • Don't leave the TV on for background noise. Turn on the radio instead, or have no background noise.
  • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.
  • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.
  • Keep a record of how much time is spent in front of a screen. Try to spend the same amount of time being active.
  • If you're feeling up to it, try a weekday ban and only allowing your kids to watch TV on the weekends.
  • Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day. (atleast while they're awake ;-) )
  • Challenge your family to go 1 week without watching TV or doing other screen-time activities. Find things to do with your time that get you moving and burning energy. (We've done this on family vacations and it definitely made it more fun for us, AND helped my marriage.)
  • Look for programs your family can watch together (i.e., developmentally appropriate and nonviolent programs that reinforce your family's values). Choose shows, says the AAP, that foster interest and learning in hobbies and education (reading, science, etc.).
  • Watch TV with your child. If you can't sit through the whole program, at least watch the first few minutes to assess the tone and appropriateness, then check in throughout the show.
  • Talk to kids about what they see on TV and share your own beliefs and values. If something you don't approve of appears on the screen, turn off the TV and use the opportunity to ask your child thought-provoking questions such as, "Do you think it was OK when those men got in that fight? What else could they have done? What would you have done?" Or, "What do you think about how those teenagers were acting at that party? Do you think what they were doing was wrong?" If certain people or characters are mistreated or discriminated against, talk about why it's important to treat everyone fairly despite their differences. You can use TV to explain confusing situations and express your feelings about difficult topics (sex, love, drugs, alcohol, smoking, work, behavior, family life). Teach your kids to question and learn from what they see on TV.
Internet Safety:
  • Become computer literate. Learn how to block objectionable material.
  • Keep the computer in a common area. Keep it where you can watch and monitor your kids. Avoid putting a computer in a child's bedroom.
  • Share an email account with younger children. That way, you can monitor who is sending them messages.
  • Teach your child about Internet safety. Discuss rules for your kids to follow while they're using the Internet, such as never reveal personal information, including address, phone number, or school name or location.
  • Bookmark your child's favorite sites. Your child will have easy access and be less likely to make a typo that could lead to inappropriate content.
  • Spend time online together. Teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
  • Monitor kids use of chat rooms. Be aware that posting messages to chat rooms reveals a child's email address to others.
  • Find out about online protection elsewhere. Find out what, if any, online protection is offered at school, after-school centers, friends' homes, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
In summation: It's ok to let your kids watch TV just don't let it take over their life. Especially in the case of gaming, and computer time I have to say that's the world they're growing up in. Computer skills are very much a life skill in today's world.


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