We are in a digital era where the virtual world is a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Be it for interactions or promoting your business, social media platforms have taken over our day-to-day lives. From ordering clothes, food, making payments to education and banking, almost everything is happening digitally in today’s world. And with the pandemic, the shift to online processes happened with greater urgency and need. So, it’s important that we stay abreast of the fast advancing technological changes. The same goes for our kids; they also need to be comfortable with the tools and tricks of the internet age.
But having said that, too much screen time, especially for children, can have many adverse effects on their physical and mental well-being (1). It is vital to ensure that your child gets a reasonable amount of time away from their phone or laptop. Here’s what you can do to help your child enjoy time off-screen, as much as they love their time online:
Why Replace Screen Time?
Being hooked to the screen for long periods of time has been linked to sleep problems, obesity, and diabetes. You must have noticed fatigue and anxiety when you’re staring at your computer screen for extended hours. The same is true for your kids, the only difference being they might not know to take a break without being asked to. Screen time is also associated with eye problems. Their interest overpowers strain. But that’s not all. Too much screen time can take a toll on your mental health as well — research has concluded that too much screen time, especially in children and teenagers, can lead to depression and anxiety. To avoid putting your child at risk for all that we just mentioned, it is best for them to take some time off from their screens for a while each day (1).
How To Replace Screen Time For Children
It’s important that parents consciously manage how much time their kids spend using devices like laptops and tablets. Most often, kids wouldn’t know when to stop, especially when they are engrossed in things they are fond of, like cartoons or video games. Let’s look at the various ways parents can nudge their kids away from screens:
1. Let Them Play Outdoors
Encourage your child to go outside and play. They could either play with their friends or just explore the vicinity on their bikes. Make it a point that they spend at least thirty minutes of their day outdoors, doing something they like. It’s okay if this means just sitting on the porch and watching the sky. During the weekends, you could take them to a park or do a small trek on the outskirts of the city. You could even make it a fun family weekend by having a picnic. On some off days, you can include their best friend to join in. The whole idea is to get them to spend time in nature. During this time, set a ground rule that phones and gadgets shouldn’t be used unless absolutely necessary.
2. Encourage Creativity
The world of art is filled with possibilities. Get your child introduced to various creative activities such as macrame, papier mache, oil painting, marble painting, or doodle art. If your kids show an inclination towards music, you can encourage them to try, learn or practice the guitar, flute, or any other instrument that they take a fancy to. Let their creative juices flow! You, too, could engage in a few creative activities with them. You could also enroll them in an art class, so they hone their skills better. Show them how it is possible to make something out of nothing! Utilizing old useless things lying around the house to make things of art can be an exciting craft activity.
3. Inculcate The Habit Of Reading
With social media and video games being all the rage, reading has most definitely taken the back burner — and that’s sad. When you read a good book, you embark on a journey of your own. It is such an underestimated activity, although it is an important one. There are so many benefits associated with reading. It can improve your vocabulary, strengthen your brain, reduce stress, increase empathy, and prevent the decline of cognitive functions. But the most important of all, reading helps improve the attention span among children. The quick and short format videos that children usually consume through social media are to blame for their short attention span. Completing a book can take hours or even days, and thus provides good practice for children to be patient and focus their attention (2).
4. Have Some Family Time
We get so carried away with work and social media that we often forget to spend time with the rest of our family. You could create a new rule at home, where every member of the family comes together for thirty minutes or an hour each day, to just talk! You could share what your day looked like or what you’ve planned for the next day. Creating such channels of communication can strengthen your bond as a family too!
5. Practice What You Preach
It won’t make any sense to your child if you limit screen time for them, but you don’t follow the same rule. Children tend to emulate what their parents do. If you’ve been constantly on your phone or laptop, your child will assume that it is okay to do so too. If you’ve got some free time on your hands, don’t choose that time to scroll through Facebook or Instagram. Instead, use it for creative activities. You can also use this time to explore some of your own hobbies.
While you’re trying to limit screen time, it is important to be nice about it. Don’t make it look like you are depriving your child of something fun. It’s crucial for them to understand that limiting screen time is a good thing. It is also necessary for them to enjoy what they do offline. What do you do to keep your child engaged when they aren’t using their phones or tablets? Let us know in the comments below!
- Effects of screentime on the health and well-being of children and adolescents: a systematic review of reviews
- Reading fiction: the benefits are numerous