Why are parents choosing to limit screen time and how to do it
If your a parent, grandparent, or child care provider, you have probably heard the words “Screen-Free Parenting” at some point
The thought of it might give you a negative reaction, like really! What’s the point in doing that? Everyone of all ages likes to watch tv, cartoons and playing video games, so why would I limit screens time? I grew up having access to screens and “I turned out okay.” Or perhaps the thought of Screen-free parenting inspires you. I have heard parents say, “I don’t like what my kids turn into when they are staring at a screen.” Or, “I am worried about what they are being exposed to, but I need to go make dinner”. Some of us are just neutral and curious about screen-time or whether is it beneficial or not. But either way, I hope this post will answer a few of your questions and help your curiosity.
On the realz, I have had my moments when I have just been so beyond exhausted
During these moments, the last thing I want to do is to “teach” my lovely kids to share a toy or to help them to engage in independent play. When parents just want some “me” time, it is so easy to just turn on a show to just keep kids entertained. No judgment. I have been there. Parent exhaustion is real and having to be on the constant go cooking, cleaning, and engaging with kids can be truly tiring. So, what can we do instead of turning on a screen and why should we choose not to turn them on.
Choose to not turn on screens for entertainment…
According to the American Association of Family Physicians, (AAFP) the average American child spends 7 hours a day looking at screens. 75% of teenagers own cell phones, and more then half of the adolescents access social media many times in a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2, have no access to screen time. And for children older than 2, screen time should be limited to at most 2 hours a day. Just for definition, Screen time or screen media is considered anything with a screen; cellphones, iPads, video games, televisions, computers and touch screens.
Studies have shown that screen time affects kids negatively in many ways
Violence is one of the top 3 causes of death in the United States
More kids die from gunfire then they do from health issues like cancer and pneumonia. There are many factors that can lead to violence, but there is a strong association between being exposed to violence through the media and having violent actions. Violence can be seen easily by the use of screens like television, movies, internet, and video games. 46 % of violence on television is seen on cartoons. Cartoons associate Violence with Humor which can be a major conflict in the developing minds of young kids, who are still learning right and wrong. And who are trying to understand social and behavioral norms.
Children that have access to screen media have higher chances towards Obesity and other Health issues
Studies, like the one from The National Institute of Health (NIH), have linked obesity to screen usage due to children being exposed to negative food habits, media influencing food preferences and children not engaging enough in physical activity. Another problem can become sleep duration due to light emitted from smartphones and tablets which is disruptive to “melatonin secretion,” which is needed for a person to wind down and get ready for sleep. Musculoskeletal pain is another health issue that can occur due to handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets displacing our bodies proper alignment. Depression is also linked to screen usage among children and young adolescents, due to lower levels of physical activity.
Don’t let Tech Businesses make profits off of our kid’s
The media has always been a powerful tool used to get people to buy and want products. Have you ever noticed a commercial being stuck in your head, or a subconscious thought about a brand that you’ve never bought or used before? Now imagine that technology, at the fingertips of a developing child and how it can affect them. The media and screen technology is powerful and parents that work in the tech industry know this. Some, Silicon Valley parents are choosing to be screen free parents and are limiting their children’s access to screens at home and school. These parents even send their kids to schools like Montessori and Waldorf schools where computers or technology are not a part of the learning environment. Instead, they focus on things like music, the arts, hands-on-learning, gardening, and imaginative play (Waldorf).
Bill Gates (former CEO of Microsoft), Steve Jobs (former CEO of Apple), and Tim Cook (Present CEO of Apple), all limit the use of screens and technology in their homes
According to BusinessInsider.com, tech companies know that technology is addictive and if you can get kids to become users, then it will become a habit, therefore, a profit. Tech companies are pushing for there products to be used in schools and have succeeded. Computers are replacing teachers, by being used in the classroom for classwork and exams. Computers are also being taken home for students to work on and submit homework. Products like Google docs, google sheets, learning management suite, google classroom, are all being pushed on children in many public, private, charter, and homeschool environments.
Opt-in for Screen Free activities at home
- Create an obstacle course inside or outside the home
- Learn an instrument, play, and practice
- Storytelling (1 kid can start with part of the story and then switch off with parent, friends or siblings to tell the rest)
- Play with stuffed or wooden animals, figurines and dolls
- Put on a theater or performance at home
- Dress up
- Build a maze
- Write a story using pictures, words or both
- Build a tipi using furniture and sheets
- Dance Party (Silk Scarves are great for dance parties, dress up, and building tipi’s)
- Go on a treasure hunt. The kids can hide things around the house or yard, then draw there own map, lastly follow the map and find the treasure
- I spy (great for car rides too)
- Wash the car
- Make puppets and put on a show
- Board games
- Puzzles, you can even design your own
- Face Painting
- Arts and Crafts: (Try these easy to grip, colors that are bright, like pastels and can be used like watercolor)
- Learn to sew, crochet, knit
- Read Books
- Play hide and seek
- Hoola Hoop
- Circus arts
- Jump Rope
- Draw with Chalk outside
- Play with friends or siblings in the neighborhood
- Kick or throw a ball
- Animal and Insect Play (walk a dog, feed fish, butterfly catching, follow ants…)
- Nature Play (collect slugs outside, play with leaves, water plant, collect plants and flowers…)
- Build with Legos, Duplos, Magnatiles, blocks, cardboard boxes…
- Scooter and Bike riding. (Here is a cute wooden push bike for kids that don’t know how to ride a bike yet.)
- Water plants, sprout seeds and play in the dirt
- Make fresh snacks and food together by cutting apples, peeling oranges, making bread, make guacamole. (I really like these 2 books with simple on how to make soups and breads with your kids.)
A few steps to make your home accessible for screen-free play
- Remove screen devices from reach and hide the tv with a tapestry or sheet.
- Don’t make technology the center of attention in your home
- Make your home accessible to play by using Montessori like shelves that contain age-appropriate trays with engaging activities. This will encourage independent play.
- Make your home into yes spaces, vs no don’t touch that!
- Make your front yard, balcony or back yard into a safe environment for kids to explore freely
As a Parent and/or Caretaker you can lead by example!
In a growing age of technology, we probably cannot remove ourselves 100% from screens and technology nor do we want to. But we can lead by example. Turn off the tv when it is just being used as background noise. Many people turn on the tv even when they are not even watching it or at night as noise to fall asleep. Instead, use that quietness and time to read a book, think about the day, breath, relax, and talk to one another. As adults, reserve your own screen time usage for when the kids are not around or sleeping. Also, make sure to keep screens off during special times of the day like, dinner time, or right after kids arrive from school. There is so much going on in our lives, so much busy-ness, that winding down and taking it slow can be quite nice. Kids crave attention, connection, and engagement no matter what age they are, so here is your chance to give it to them.
If you still want to include some screen time and not be a 100% screen free parent then
Try movie nights in the backyard and or going out as a family to the movie theatre. Doing it together can make the outing extra special. At home, you can engage with your kids, while they are on limited screen-usage and can talk about what you see and learn together. Maybe even find some cool videos and projects to create on youtube or Pinterest. Like how to make playdough or a kid-friendly baking recipe. Then go and do it together! If you and your kids are already super engaged in screen usage, you can start slow. Calculate how much time is spent using screens and then reduce it daily by about 30 minutes a day. Perhaps, 1 hour of screen usage broken up in the day can be sufficient for your family. Being picky about the day can also help. Like only engaging in screen usage on weekends vs school nights. The options are there and adapting to positive changes in our home environments can take time, so give it a try, and let me know how it goes 🙂
If you have any comments or would like to share more ideas of activities to do without screens, or how you are transitioning towards reducing screen-time in your home, then feel free to comment below. I would love to hear from you. Till next time! Ta Ta
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