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SCREEN TIME – Are technology and screens hurting our children?

Screen Time - Is screen time hurting our children


As we move into an increasingly digital age, technology and devices invade every part of our natural lives. Gaming, socializing, education, entertainment, and leisure time all involve one common denominator: screen time. In fact, children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than 7 hours per day looking at screens, despite recommended screen time being under 2 hours. While the direct impact of screen time may or may not be obvious (some studies suggest too much screen time can have a negative impact on eyesight), the tertiary factors are becoming very obvious. Children can form addictive behavior patterns, sedentary lifestyles, and hurt their early development and form poor habits that will endure throughout their life.

On average, American children spend more time in front of a screen than they do playing outside. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention childhood obesity affected about 13.7 million American children last year, and more than half of American children are set to be obese by 35. These are disturbing trends in light of the fact that there is ample evidence that outdoor unstructured play provides benefits to children that last into adulthood such as establishing healthy habits.


A lot of parents can be misinformed or under-educated on the impact that tablets and screen time can have on their child’s development. Reaching for the tablet when they want a break, feel frustrated, or just aren’t up to the task at hand. But we’ve all been there. From time to time, their little brains are buzzing with energy and must be occupied. However, the real issue is not in the way the child is being occupied, but how often we’re reaching for the iPad to satiate their minds. Tablet time, screen time, etc… can all have positive benefits when administered properly. Additionally, the content on the screen is a major factor: Is it helping them learn, or is it simply a distraction? Just remember, the general recommendation is to maintain a healthy ratio between moments of interaction and non-interaction. For every hour you have them on the tablet, they should be receiving at least an hour of human interaction.


While inmates at maximum-security prisons in the U.S. are guaranteed at least 2 hours of outdoor time a day, half of the children worldwide spend less than an hour outside, reports With this in mind, it is a scary thought that our children are not receiving the healthy outside play that most parents grew up with.


Play is so important to optimal child development that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized play as the birthright of every child.

The obvious benefit is what they gain physically: by running and jumping, pushing and pulling they build muscles, burn calories and develop coordination. They are also absorbing vitamin D from the sun which helps to strengthen bones and is associated with improved mood and happiness. Preschoolers, in particular, learn through their senses by touching, smelling and hearing things. Playing outside can also help children develop positive behaviors like sharing, exploring and cooperation. Did you know that many studies have demonstrated that children who play outside regularly have increased attention spans over those that don’t?

any factors have contributed to a decrease in outdoor playtime including more hurried lifestyles and increased attention to academics sometimes at the expense of play. At Swings-N-Things we recognize that parents don’t always have the extra time to go to a park or playground so we can help you solve this problem by installing one of our beautiful wooden playsets right in your own backyard. We also recognize that there are many wooden playsets on the market and that parents have a choice.


Thanks to

  1. Budget it Edmonton mom Sharla Madsen allows her kids, ages seven and four, 45 minutes of tablet or Wii U a day and about half an hour of TV watching. They can bank those minutes if they don’t use them, which she says gives them a sense of control.
  1. Cut it If you don’t want to be the screen police all week long, Heard suggests banning it altogether on school days. “It’s much easier to monitor screen time if there is none,” she says. You can always record movies or sports games and watch them on the weekend.
  1. Move it Zoning out in front of Monster High is one thing, but playing an active video game, like Dance Dance Revolution, is different, says Heard (although it still shouldn’t replace outdoor activity). Things like chatting with family members via Skype and doing homework are also valid reasons to be in front of a monitor.
  1. Compromise on it When coming up with limits, have a family meeting, suggests Heard, to ask for the kids’ input. When Madsen talked to her son about what would be an appropriate amount of time to spend on his tablet, she suggested 45 minutes, and he countered by asking for an extra 10 to 15 minutes on the weekend. “I made his day when I agreed,” she says.
  1. Enforce it Once the rules are set, going cold turkey rather than slowly reducing screen time is better, says Heard, if only because it’s easier to enforce. However, you’ll need to think of things for your kids to do to fill the time, and expect to hear the inevitable “I’m bored.” (Which might just force them to figure out a way to have fun on their own.)
  1. Schedule it Plan screen time for when you need them to be occupied, like when you’re making dinner. But be prepared to spend more time with your kids, too. “Parents often use the screen to babysit, so they’re going to have to adjust their own schedules,” Heard says.

Whatever rules you make, the hardest part is sticking to them, admits Barnes. The other big challenge is cutting back your own screen time. If you can’t put your phone away, then why would your kids? “Parents need to be the role models,” says Heard.


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