Daily family life has seen major changes since the start of the pandemic. We have been restricted in doing daily activities like traveling and social activities. Screen time has increased due to all this change, and it's not just because of virtual school.
What is screen time?
Screen time is defined as looking at digital screens such as computers, tablets, smartphones, TV's and video games. Statistics from the National Institutes of Health show that "most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day." Excessive screen use is linked to decrease quality of sleep, exercise and nutrition.
Why is increased screen time an issue for a kid's health? Increase screen time decrease opportunities to be active. Less activity is not good for our heart, energy, sleep to name a few. With more screen time we also become more distracted which can make us more mindless in what we eat and how much we eat.
How can you reduce excessive screen time and improve your child's health?
- Avoid watching TV while eating. As a family, agree to have screen-free zones. A screen-free zone can be at the dinner table (no smartphones or tablets during this time). Or just not eating a meal in front of the TV could be another example.
- Keep kids active in a different way. When you need to get stuff done around the house, it's tempting to let your kids watch TV or play a game. Enlist your kids to help during these times. Young children have a readiness to learn and a sincere desire to help around the house. This could be a great time to have your kids help in the kitchen. Learn how to chop vegetables, clean the kitchen table for dinner or stir food as it's cooking.
- Set limits around screen time. Schedule screen time as part of a kid's daily schedule. Maybe 30 minutes of a game after homework or they can watch one show after dinner. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour per day of screen time for children 2 to 5 years old and no more than 2 hours daily for kids above 5 years old.
- Parents can be role models. Whether you are a kid or an adult; we all can strive for less screen time. If you make a rule in the house for your kids, follow that example. Your kids will follow your lead!
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