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Is Screen Time Turning Our Kids Into Zombies?  10 Ways To Break The Addiction.

Screen time is it all that bad?

This week I made a post on the Positive Parent Instagram account that shared some harsh stats I found on the BBC Website from 2015 relating to screen time.

“Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise.

Teenaged boys spend the longest, with an average of eight hours. Eight-year-old girls spend the least – three-and-a-half hours, according to the study. Screen time is made up of time spent watching TV, playing games consoles, using a mobile, computer or tablet.”

A Positive Parent Instagram Pos

My Experience with Screen Time.

On reading this I reflected “That’s some serious telly time”. I get it, some of us have to earn a living, keep the home, make dinner, be a wife, and all the other million things that need to be taken care of in a day and telly seems like the easy option to keep kids distracted.

My 4 year old daughter gets maybe 6 hours a week approved program time. No iPad, no games and maybe a little flicking through photos on my phone, a couple of times a week, for a few minutes. This is all she is used to so is happy making, playing, singing and entertaining herself if we are busy. I know not all children are like this, so am lucky. 

I always admired Steve Jobs who famously said “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” and I follow his lead. I also have a dear friend who shared some shocking research on EMF’s (Electro Magnetic Fields) so we actually turn the wifi off at night. If my daughter is flicking through my photos on my phone I put it on flight mode and if she speaks on it, it would be on handsfree. 

Need to blog about all this soon as EMF’s are a fascinating subject. 

What The Experts Say About Screen Time

Now it is agreed that 0 to 3 year olds should definitely limit screen time and there is a great article on Psychology Today which tells us that “When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains.

Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Kids screen time

Picture from Life Hacker

The National Centre for Research goes on to say “Children under two spend, on average, more than two hours every day watching TV or using other screen media like computer games and video games.1 But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 2 should not be watching TV, videos, or DVDs at all.

In fact, the Academy recommends no “screen time” for babies and toddlers. Parents should instead encourage more interactive activities such as playing and talking in order to improve their listening and social skills.”

The message is pretty clear infants should be having little or no screen time but what about older kids? 

So we know that screen time is bad… WRONG!

Now here is the shocker!! In an interesting article in the Science Daily titled “More screen time for kids isn’t all that bad” “Data from the current study suggests that children are resilient to screen consumption for up to six hours daily.”

 To my surprise I found an article in the UK newspaper The Guardian called “Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype” That clearly states. “ Divisive and scaremongering rhetoric that takes a casual approach to evidence is unhelpful at best and, in our opinion, damaging.

Digital technologies are part of our children’s lives, necessarily so in the 21st century. We agree that further research is necessary, and urge the government and research funding bodies to invest in this, so that clear policy and better guidelines for parents can be built on evidence, not hyperbole and opinion.”

Limit screen time

This really got me thinking. Maybe it’s not the screen time that’s damaging our kids. Maybe it is ok for them to be exposed to hours on end of screen time BUT maybe it’s what they miss out on that is causing the real problem.

I decided to shift my focus from “what’s wrong with screen time” to “what things are kid miss out on when they are sat in front of a screen”. Maybe missing out on life experiences has far greater impact than actually looking at a screen.

The more I researched, the more I realised I am not alone in this view. So what else could kids be doing in their daily 6 hour dose that could break this unproductive screen time addiction?

Where should we, as parents be directing our kids attention?  Here are 10 ways that could help to shift their focus:

  1. Get Outside
  2. Spend Time With Peers 
  3. Social Interaction 
  4. Physical Exercise
  5. Talk
  6. Get Creating
  7. Volunteer
  8. Learn an Instrument
  9. Read
  10. Sleep

Each one of these headers is a blog of it’s own. So I better get researching these subjects and share but in the meantime here are some the benefits of just the first one to put it into perspective. 

Image from Slate.com

Get Outside

An article titled “Nature Play Is Important For The Cognitive Development of Early Learners” that featured in Informal Science  this month explores that “time spent in greenspaces and open spaces, even just taking a walk, has been shown over a number of studies by Faber Taylor and Kuo (2011) to mitigate symptoms of attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders and increase concentration.

In fact, the research has shown the greener their everyday experiences, the more manageable are their symptoms. Other research, reviewed by Chawla (2015), has shown that more access, proximity to, and time spent in outdoor and green spaces is positively associated with higher concentration, greater self-control, and increased memory and academic success.

Mårtensson, et al. (2009) looked through the restorative lens in regards to the potential attention benefits of outdoor time in preschool children and found that preschool children who spent more time outdoors in “green, spacious, and well-integrated” outdoor areas ultimately had higher attention and ability to focus.

A great feature aimed at business people in Business Insider titled “11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside”  explores many benefits of being outdoors. Especially interesting is that ‘Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in the great outdoors — especially when that’s combined with exercise. (This is to be expected, to some extent, as both greenery and exercise are known to reduce stress.)

One study found that walks in the forest were specifically associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be “useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments” for major depressive disorder.

“Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood,” found an analysis of 10 earlier studies about so-called “green exercise,” and “the mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements.” The presence of water made the positive effects even stronger. “

Finally

I wish I could list all the benefits of the other 9 ways that could help break the addition but that would be REALLY LONG BLOG. In short my research shows that the physical act of screen time is fine but what what kids are missing out on, really is not.

Please sign up for my 19 page Free Guide To Being a Positive Parent and I will ensure you also get the blogs that cover the other 10 ways to shift focus from screen time.

Resources

Slate – Let Kids Run Wild in the Woods

 Daily Science  – More screen time for kids isn’t all that bad

Psychology Today – What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains

The Guardian – Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype

The National Centre for Research – Young children and screen time (TV, computers, etc.)

Informal Science – Nature Play Is Important For The Cognitive Development of Early Learners

Business Insider – 11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside

BBC – Children spend six hours or more a day on screens

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4 Comments

  • Great thorough post! I agree that they can become addicted to screens so easily but I’m a fan of everything in moderation! #AnythingGoes

  • Janet says:

    I do agree with this, however, I don’t think I’m the best person to comment as such because I don’t measure the time they spend using technology. I do have rules – for instance, the TV can go on in the morning once everyone is washed, dressed, teeth brushed and has had breakfast. On an evening, it’s off at dinner time as it’s family time, and everyone has to stop with the technology about an hour before bed time. My kids have activities – all go to football training twice per week, and then most week there is a match too. They also have swimming lessons on a Saturday morning and we have a car-rest day if possible and walk into the shopping centre, the park, or the beach, depending on the weather. A trampoline park has recently opened in the area and the kids love that but I’m pleased the weather is getting better as last week, we got our trampoline set up for the nicer weather as they love to play in the garden – they haven’t watched any TV or played on any technology today as they’ve read books, painted, baked, cleaned up their rooms etc… so they don’t actually bug to be on technology/for screen time that much – but I would say that some days we have our lazier days/evenings and they spend more time than usual. I do find it quite difficult as my children’s primary and secondary have homework that expects you to be on the internet. The primary school actually provides the boys with an Ipad and a lot of their homework is through an app – my daughter in senior school always has to log onto a laptop for her maths homework too. When schools are encouraging and embracing technology too, it makes it even more difficult to monitor screen time as this is for work and not leisure too!

    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

    • apositiveparent says:

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. I know its such a challenge especially when we live in a technology driven world!

  • Screen time is a debate that I have an inner struggle with. Our daughter has such busy weeks but I actually think she needs that time to ‘mong out’ but then of course, it’s everything in moderation! #bloggerclubuk

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