The pandemic has been much harder on kids than adults. Being confined within the walls of the house, not being able to reflex their muscles, and being barred from having fun with their friends is not easy for children. Apart from health emergencies, the pandemic has brought many difficulties for parents dealing with their kids. They could not provide stimulation to satisfy the curious minds of their kids. Mired with emotional and occupational stress, many parents found leaving their kids engrossed with digital devices a way out and an opportunity to have some relief. This short-term relief definitely shows its negative impacts as kids are not ready to go back to school and get away from favorite cartoons or TV shows.
The negative impact of high screen time on kids
Problems associated with excessive screen time include both behavioral and health issues. When children spend more time playing games or watching videos online, they avoid physical activity, be lethargic, and often develop various muscle-related problems. Moreover, spending time online is like a pull-force that makes them stay awake till late and affects their sleep cycle. Kids who constantly watch screens for prolonged hours have itchy and dry eyes, headaches, and imperfect vision. They also enhance the risk of developing myopia by reading on a screen at a closer distance. Behavioral issues in the kids include attention deficit disorder and gaming disorder.
According to the world health organization, kids up to one year old should avoid screens at all costs, including watching videos or playing games. For the children aged 2-4, the screen time should be limited to one hour a day or less. Even if a child has been exposed previously, start limiting their exposure gradually.
Here are some tips for managing screen time for school-age children not to harm their health and well-being.
Give them attention
Children are exposed to screens for prolonged hours because there is not enough time given to them and no school activities available to them. They are a bundle of energy who crave attention and want their parents to play and spend time with them. Once this does not happen, they busy themselves with other activities such as playing online games and videos. So, the first way to balance their screen time is by spending more time and playing with them. You will see that gradually your kid will show more interest in playing with you than aimlessly watching videos.
Let them stay connected with their friends
Pandemic has been challenging for the kids as they could not understand why everyone was locked inside the house. Children crave their friends more than adults; therefore, kids should stay in touch and communicate with their friends in times of uncertainty. Since they are not allowed to play with them physically, they can use social media in this era of communication to keep in touch.
Know what your kids are watching online
Even if you allow your kids to be on their screens, you must know what they are watching or doing on their devices. You cannot limit their access forcefully, but offering guidance about harmful content and helping them stay away from the destructive company is undoubtedly your job. Help them develop connections with the right company and be part of productive support groups that enhance their learning and creativity.
Combine physical activity with screen time
Due to their confinement in the house, physical activity was difficult during the lockdown. As a result, they may be more inclined to watch videos and relax at home. If you are in this situation, it is best to combine screen time with physical activity. When learning, playing, and socializing are facilitated by screens, physical activity should be as well. By doing this, you can combine physical activity with entertainment. Once the pandemic is over, you can follow the same routine.
Make time to have one family meal
Spending time with family is a big opportunity to improve mutual communication, understand each other, and share ideas. It is also a stress relief therapy, but kids might not know about these benefits or not pay attention when they have a digital device in their hands. You have to introduce them to such priceless moments where they can share their daily routine, discuss their problems and interact with their siblings. It is essential for their personal and behavioral development to have one meal together without the presence of any devices or talk about it. Having one meal together should be so exciting that they anticipate it throughout the day.
Replace online games with informative videos
We all know that it is quite difficult for parents to forcefully make their children leave the screen, especially when schools are still struggling to adopt a normal routine. One way to make the most out of your kid’s screen time is to replace the video games with informative content and fun activities about topics your kids like, such as animals, sea life, etc. You can introduce them to various new learning concepts, enhance their recognition, and make them learn more words. For older children, you may want to emphasize content that builds skills. For instance, they may learn how to iron their shirt, help you in the kitchen and garden, learn about various car parts, and the like.
Avoid screen time before bed
To balance your kid’s screen time, you have to make a schedule for them. They must know when they will help you with house chores, play with the pet, and have screen time. In all this scheduling, make sure the time before going to bed is not allocated to using digital devices as it can really interfere with your kid’s sleep. Your kids should set the screens aside at least two hours before going to bed. Instead, this time can be allocated to having family time, playing games together, or preparing for bedtime.
With the influx of technology in your daily life, it isn’t easy to keep your kids away from digital devices completely. With school going online during the pandemic and social interactions confining to social media only, things have become more serious for parents. The only way to make screen time more productive for parents and their children is to tie physical exercise to screen time, choose better learning-oriented videos, and spend more time with them.