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We all know that screen-based activities are becoming increasingly popular. It seems like wherever you go, people – and, quite often, kids – have their heads buried in a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or video game. Many primary and secondary schools now actively encourage the use of tablets and computers in class.
And as a parent, who hasn’t been tempted to appease a child’s tantrum with time playing games on a smart phone?
One recent WA study found that 70% of primary school aged children in Australia reported participating in more than the recommended maximum of 2 hours of electronic media activity during an ‘average week’.
The link between higher screen-based activity and poor physical and mental health is becoming clearer. Studies have shown that spending too much time in front of the TV is associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity, higher caloric consumption, attention problems, and sleep problems.
Here are some tips on reducing screen time:
- Family plan for everyone to reduce their screen time, not just the kids.
- Set a time for usage and put a time limit on it. The key is to be consistent – if you say only 30 minutes of iPad use, then resist letting this stretch longer.
- Make a “No Phones at the Table” rule and other no-phone zones or times.
- When you receive a text message, don’t jump to your phone to read it (unless you’re expecting an important text!). Your kids will see how you respond to the ‘ding’ alert and think they have less of your attention.
- Turn off notifications on your mobile.
- Keep screens out of kids’ bedrooms.
- “Media curfew” at mealtime and bedtime.
- Have a communal charging station where everyone plugs away their devices overnight.
- Watch programs with children to help develop their media education and awareness.
- Look for media choices that are educational, or teach good values.
- Encourage other activities – reading, board games, arts and crafts, gardening, sports, and so on.