I recently overheard one of our students discussing the weekend with a classmate. He said, “yeah Saturday is tomorrow, I get extra screen time on Saturday.” I was pleased to hear that screen time is indeed being discussed and monitored in his home. This topic is of great interest to me and to most educators; our children are at risk in many ways to over exposure of screen time. I talk often about this dilemma with parents at coffees, in passing conversation, and have written reflections on the subject.
In the past, screen time was a little simpler for parents with the biggest concern being what to allow children to watch on TV or what video games were appropriate. Today, the number of digital gadgets available to us is staggeringly high, and time spent on gadgets is growing daily. Smart phones and social media play into this in a big way. We know it is a sign of our times, a sign of progress and a mainstay of life and work for many. Most of us are plugged into our devices round the clock. Because of this phenomenon, it is of greater importance that we pay closer attention to the amount of time that our children spend in front of screens today.
The World Health Organization is strongly cautioning us over exposure to screens for our young children. Due to the unknown effects of prolonged screen time on developing brains, current research and The American Academy of pediatrics offers guidelines for usage for all ages. Keep in mind screen time is not recommended for children under 2 years old for any length of time. Too much screen time over time is taking away from children learning to interact with others on a personal level. Screen time and video games can isolate children socially. This isolation inhibits children from becoming social beings who can communicate, listen, wait, share and problem solve. Too much time spent indoors on screens is taking away from healthy growth which develops in tandem with fresh air, exercise and time spent in good old fashioned outdoor play.
It is never too late to set limits. Did you know that there is a National Unplug Day? This year from sundown on March 6 to sundown on March 7 people are challenged to unplug from all devices for any period of time within that 24 hour time span. Parents/families can pick the length of time that they think is manageable, make a commitment to that time frame and take a small step toward focusing on things non-digital. What a wonderful idea and a great segue into thinking more seriously and long term about time spent plugged-in.
The lure of screens, games, social media, apps, pads, tablets, games and gadgets, is tempting and growing. Let’s protect our children. Take the challenge and unplug; from there take it a day at a time by:
- Leading by example
- Keeping moderation in mind
- Watching what our children are watching, make sure it is age appropriate
- Unplugging during car rides and meal-times
- Leaving tablets at home
- Getting outside more often
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