Our children’s obesity and inactivity levels are on the rise in Canada. We know that from questioning whether the true north is strong and free. Increasing amounts of screen time are a big part of the problem. The French audience measurement company Mediametrie recently found that children between the ages of 4 and 14 spend more than 2 hours a day in front of video games, computers, TVs, and/or tablets.
Moreover, according to USA Today, a recent report from Northwestern University in Washington indicates that most parents are at least aware that this technology can hinder physical activity, learning and creativity.
With these entertainment – and at times educational – media so prevalent, it’s impossible (and probably undesirable) to completely prevent our kids from partaking. But from their infancy into their teens we can still do our children a favour by regulating screen time.
Ages 0 to 2: Tablets only
Studies have shown that non-interactive media like TV and DVDs don’t benefit children, and that DVDs for babies might even cause negative effects such as slow speech development and weight gain, as well as poor focus and attention span.
That said, you can help initiate your child into the digital world by using tablets with touch screens, as this medium is best suited to their intelligence level. Just be sure to diversify their stimulus between both digital and non-digital formats.
Ages 2 to 6: No personal video game consoles
By age three, screens can help children to understand the difference between what’s real and what’s virtual. Their exposure shouldn’t be passive and prolonged though, and you should encourage your child to talk about what he saw. Playing on a console alone can become repetitive and compulsive, yielding more disadvantages than advantages, and should be avoided.
Ages 6 to 12: Learning self-regulation
Using screens and digital tools can be a valuable education tool, but it’s essential to teach children about self-regulation from an early age. Give your child a set amount of daily screen time and teach them to use it responsibly.
Ages 12 and above: Beware of nighttime sessions
Proper use of screens can help teenagers to control their emotions, thoughts, and actions, while aiding their decision-making abilities. Too much Internet, however, can lead to a superficial, overly quick thinking process, and impede memory.
If your child has trouble focusing, always seems sleepy, or starts to fall behind at school, there’s a chance she might be using electronic devices at night. Talk to your teen about what she sees and does in front of the screen to help her develop critical thinking. Establish clear ground rules. Since children at this age haven’t reached brain maturation yet, education and parental control are essential.
Regardless of your child’s age, it’s imperative they live an active lifestyle. Physical activity outdoors is a great way to breakup screen time. Be a positive role model. Get outdoors and participate with them.