There’s no such thing as a ‘healthy’ amount of screen time. What’s important is to make sure that children strike a healthy balance in the way that they use their screens.
The Easter holiday is here, and your children will probably be delighted to be off school! It also means they’ll have far more opportunities for unrestricted screen time. While we understand that children deserve a break, especially in these trying times, it’s important to make sure that they strike a healthy balance in the way that they use their screens.
There’s no such thing as a ‘healthy’ amount of screen time, but that doesn’t mean all screen time is inherently bad. The most important thing to consider is whether children are getting ‘active’ or ‘passive’ screen time.
Playing interactive games (particularly educational ones, but even something creative like Minecraft), using videos like Joe Wicks’ online P.E. sessions or reading books on an e-reader are all examples of ‘active’ screen time. Scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Twitter, or watching gamers on YouTube or Twitch, are examples of ‘passive’ screen time which should be kept to a sensible minimum - a couple of hours a day at most. They’re not bad in small doses, especially if your child finds them entertaining or relaxing, but balance is key.
So what can parents do at home to make sure children don’t waste their entire Easter holiday in front of a screen? The most effective thing you can do is lead by example: try to establish a set ‘screen-free’ time during the day where your children are encouraged to do other activities, and make sure that you put your devices to bed in order to promote better sleep patterns. Check the parental settings on your devices if you want to establish a hard limit on how long your child can use them. You could try giving your children the opportunity to ‘earn’ more screen time - say by doing chores around the house - but it’s important to make sure that children learn to self-regulate. They need to ask themselves: “Am I getting the most out of this time?”
It’s also important to get your children interested in other activities that don’t involve screens: especially in the current moment, when so much of our daily routine has been disrupted and it’s easy to fall back on screens as a method of diversion.
Exercise is essential: if you’re lucky enough to have a back garden, or you live close by to a public park where you can practice safe social distancing, take a walk and get some fresh air. If you don’t have an outdoor space, try doing dance routines, yoga or simple stretches to keep fit. Meditate to relax your body as well as your mind. Read a new book, try cooking or baking, or take up a new hobby like crochet or calligraphy!
You can even use your devices to enhance some of these hobbies. If your children are proud of the story they’ve written or the model they’ve built, encourage them to take a picture or a video and share it online with their friends! Find exercise routines and recipes online, or use apps like FaceTime and Zoom to keep in touch with family members. Whatever you do, always remember that important word: balance.