Updated: Jun 27, 2022
Less Screen Time During Summertime
Repeated studies have demonstrated that excessive screen time leads to severe issues for kids. Those range from physical issues like obesity, poor posture, and neck and eye strain, to mental issues like anxiety, depression and lack of attention. Worse, some new technologies like social media have been proven to have the same addictive power as gambling, drinking and smoking. Needless to say, the younger one is exposed to such maladies, the less prepared he or she is to deal with the potentially lifelong consequences associated with them.
FoodMatters.com, a reputable health-oriented website, points out that children who are exposed to too much screen time tend to lose their ability to properly relate to others. A number of other studies argue that excessive screen time also affects the child’s academic performance, concentration, sleeping habits, and reasoning ability. To make matters even more complicated, children overexposed to technology also tend to become more aggressive, anxious and depressed.
COVID has left its mark in this topic too: a recent study showed that children's screen time has increased by over 60% during the pandemic to a whooping 5 hours per day (not including distance learning). This amount of screen time accounts for ⅓ of their waking hours. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that there is anyone out there willing to argue that this is an acceptable situation.
So, how much screen time is too much? Not a lot, really. Children between 0 and 2 years should not be exposed to any screen time at all since their brains are not able to follow what they see on screens, and that stimulation, while hypnotic, is extremely damaging to their overall development. Children between 2 and 5 years can start to be exposed to technology, but no more than 2 hours per week - and strictly to age-appropriate content. As kids get older, it is ok to start to flex their screen time over time - but never more than 2 hours per day.
I know this sounds too extreme… I myself have 3 daughters and we have never had external help to take care of them. I know using screens to calm them down is tempting - and I confess that I have on occasion gone against the recommendations above. But the reality is that when we do so, we are trading off an immediate short term relief with potential long term developmental issues for our kids. It is not easy, and it may not even be fair, but choosing to spend time entertaining them without screens is the right thing to do.
Ok, so if you are still here with me, you are probably wondering “that’s all well and good, but how do we dial back screen time?” The answer is not complicated, but it does depend a lot on you and your spouse. For starters, limit the number of hours for screen time accordingly to the guidelines above. Then, start to rebuild in-person family practices by enforcing no screen time activities (e.g., at the table during meals, during the last hour before bed) and by recreating opportunities for socialization, doing things together as a family or with friends. Reading and/or discussing a book, cooking together, playing board games, playing sports, going outside to enjoy Hawaii’s natural beauty, working on a DIY project are examples of great family activities.
Below I will share with you some ideas on how to create a fun and interactive challenge to reduce the screen time at your home. You can share these ideas with your friends and family and please let me know if you put any of these ideas into practice by sending me an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am looking forward to hearing from you!