Parents often complain about how childhood looks so different today, compared to when they were children. Today, kids have technology at their fingertips 24 hours a day—TV, smartphones, YouTube, and video games.
Research backs these complaints. A 2018 study from Common Sense Media, showed pre-teens are spending six hours per day in front of a screen, and teens spend nine hours (not including school-related screen time).
It is important to pull your kids away from the screen and get them outside and moving. The healthiest children have a balance between outdoor and online play.
Parents should model screen time
The first thing all parents should do is take a look at their own actions. Your children learn first by watching you. Are you binge-watching Netflix and posting every action on Facebook? Then, you shouldn’t be surprised when your child is obsessed with comments and loves on Instagram or binge watching You Tube videos.
They are modeling your behavior and following in your footsteps. You have a responsibility to watch what you’re teaching.
Tips for limiting parent screen time:
Keep electronics off during meals.
Turn off electronics in the car.
Limit computer socializing by using a screen time tracker.
Take up a family hobby to deal with boredom.
Put phones away at a specific time every night.
Downside of screen time
Screen time does provide some positive cognitive challenges for young people, but it also has some downsides. The American College of Pediatricians reports the following negative affects screen time can have on children:
Content can scare young children causing nightmares and impact sleep quality.
Electronics and a television in the bedroom can cause sleep and behavioral issues.
Screen time takes away time from face-to-face communication and outdoor play, reading, chores, and sleeping.
Preschool children demonstrate more skill with technology than with life skills such as tying their shoes, riding a bike, or swimming.
Excessive screen time from ages 12-24 months can adversely impact brain development.
Social media contributes to depression, an increase in bullying behaviors, and exposes children early to sexually explicit material.
How to get moving and get more outside time
Summer in Pennsylvania is the perfect time to learn new and better habits to get your kids outside more, as well as create new family memories. Outdoor time can help your children develop physically and socially. The sun and fresh air provide important exposure to sunlight and increases physical activity while improving your immune system.
Here are a few tips to get you and your children outside:
Encourage non-screen-based interests such as playing sports, going to dance classes, and playing outside.
Explore the local neighborhoods. Visit the local parks and explore the playground or have a picnic.
Set up play dates with other children.
Plant a garden. You’ll have the benefit of working outside in the garden and showing your kids a healthy way to eat.
Help your child build a fort in the backyard, all you need is a rope and some sheets.
Go for walks or bike rides around the neighborhood.
Create an outdoor scavenger hunt or make your child collect and identify leaves from different trees.
Schedule digital-free time in your daily schedule.
Put electronics away at a scheduled time every night and do not allow electronics in the bedroom at night.
In today’s world, children need a balance of outdoor play and digital play, but it is crucial to limit the screen time to provide a more healthy balance. Your goal should be to get 60 minutes of physical activity each day and the more of that time that is spent outdoors, the better.
About Dr. Odorizzi
Dr. Odorizzi received his medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his pediatric residency training through the Navy at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Va. He is pediatric board certified and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians. He practices with Jessica Osman, DO, at Susquehanna Pediatrics, 6 East Mountain Ave., South Williamsport.