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6 Things Every Parent Needs To Know About Screen Time
Baby SOS Baby SOS
6 Things Every Parent Needs To Know About Screen Time
May 29, 2018
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Baby SOS Baby SOS
6 Things Every Parent Needs To Know About Screen Time
May 29, 2018
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If all that buzzing, bleeping and flashing is giving you anxiety, think what it’s doing to your child. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest research and views to help guide your decision-making around family screen time.

Children are consumed by apps, games and social media more than ever, with some shocking reports of four-year-olds starting primary school more familiar with a screen than a book, swiping the pages like they would a tablet. This is enough to cause concern to parents, teachers and professionals. Children are simply not getting what they need from screens for healthy brain and social development,” says Human Givens Psychotherapist Jo Ham. There are so many concerns about the links between Internet use and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and social isolation. We know these are growing in children and young people. Also, the Internet is in effect a public place and children are particularly vulnerable to online bullying and predatory grooming.” Some infants as young as one or two are being allowed to play with phones and tablets for prolonged periods of time. It is recommended that children under three should not be exposed to screens unsupervised, or ideally, at all. Ham gives us her thoughts on the subject and some useful ways to tackle the topic head-on below.

The Dangers Of Too Much Screen Time

CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN SOCIAL SKILLS – Real face-to-face communication, eye contact and listening skills are the only way for human beings to learn to connect with each other. The action of swiping a screen does not develop true hand-eye coordination. The finger-thumb action of playing and holding real toys and objects is essential for developing the brain. This action is also linked to the part of the brain that develops speech. You just can’t learn these vital skills through a screen.

 

MAKE TIME FOR PLAY TIME – Too much screen time can have a negative impact on your child’s ability to thrive creatively. Children learn through play, exploring the real world, using their senses – touch, sight, taste, smell and sound. Children who don’t learn making, building, drawing, colouring, and other skills with their hands can experience less emotional calm and control because they’re used to the stimulation and distraction of a screen. This can sometimes lead to more tantrums and a tendency to addictive behaviours.

 

BE CAREFUL OF EMOTIONAL HEALTH – Children don’t have the emotional maturity to manage the often tricky social situations prevalent online.  

 

STOP THE ADDICTION – The instant gratification and constant novelty of screens and social media can disrupt the pathways in the brain, making it hard for children to stop.

 

FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTION The human brain thrives on interacting with others – looking, listening, laughing, singing, dancing, playing. In order to thrive emotionally, meaningful connection with other people is essential. Children and all young mammals need the key bonding hormone oxytocin that we can only get through face-to-face human interaction. Low levels of oxytocin lead to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Screens increase cortisol, they don’t provide real human connection.

 

IT’S GOOD TO TALK – Too much screen time can also limit your child’s speech development and social skills. The more time your child spends on the screen, the less time they will be speaking and communicating face-to-face. A child who finds socialising challenging may find screens easy to hide behind, which can just make them more and more isolated.

 

PAY ATTENTION – Rapidly-moving images on screens are highly engaging and attractive to children. But the effects on the brain of all this high-speed action actually cause them to feel more agitated. The instant gratification is addictive, affecting children’s ability to pay focused attention and can result in poor impulse control.

 

GO COMPARE – In the pre-teen and teenage years, peer pressure through social media can lead children to feel high levels of stress about their body image, clothes, friendships and affect their confidence.

 

CYBER BULLYING – In primary and secondary schools across the country, children are suffering the effects of bullying via social media at increasingly young ages. It’s a lot easier to post unkind comments online than to say mean things face-to-face. The effects of such negative interactions can be devastating, often leading to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even self-harm and suicidal feelings.

 

BODY DISSATISFACTION – Children who spend longer on screens are more likely to develop unhealthy eating habits as their brains become primed for instant gratification, which can get them craving that sugar hit. It’s also true that time spent on screens leaves less time for being active. 

 

GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP – The blue light from screens confuses the brain and disrupts production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin helps us sleep better, and good sleep is essential for coping, lowering stress, and overall mental and physical health.

 

WHAT TO DO – Prevention is the best way: every child needs boundaries to keep them safe. It’s easier to make the rules before your child has access to screens than to try and backtrack after. But if your child does have a problem, try and talk to them and provide appropriate boundaries and support. Therapy can be helpful if your child is traumatised by things they have seen or read, or they have been bullied.

 

Try To Stick To These Simple Rules:

 

MODEL HEALTHY BEHAVIOURS AROUND SCREENS – Don’t have your phone out the whole time. Your baby will pick up that that’s what people ‘do’ and they will also be missing out on face-to-face interaction, which is vital for them to communicate effectively. Have a zone in the house where it’s screen-free and create times in the family with screen-free hours.

 

LIMIT SCREEN TIME – No screen time for under threes, but if you must, watch a programme with them and talk them through it. They’re not learning the language through the programme, they learn by talking about it with you.

 

DON’T USE SCREEN TIME AS A BABYSITTER – By the age of seven, the average child in this country has spent a whole year on a screen – what else could they have done in that time? Using their body, learning skills, creating, playing, handling real things and using that thumb and forefinger to develop their skills and their brains. 

 

NO SCREENS IN THE BEDROOM, EVER – If it’s in their room, who’s monitoring how much time they spend on it?

 

DON’T USE SCREEN TIME AS A REWARD – Use something else like outside play – you are doing them a favour for life. 

 

USE EVER PARENTAL CONTROL PACKAGE IN THE BOOK – It’s about controlling the screens rather than screens controlling them. Never give the password to your child and monitor their social media activity. Set times and stick to them. Talk to your child about what websites are going on and who they’re talking to.

 

ONLY BEFRIEND SOMEONE YOU KNOW ACTUALLY EXISTS – There are so many stalkers – parents need to be aware that that photo of a kid might not be that person. Use maximum privacy always on your settings. We need to be aware of what our children are posting – that picture or comment is going to be up there forever. 

 

DONT GIFT A SCREEN – One in three school kids now owns a tablet. Do your child a favour, help them develop real skills for life instead of virtual ones!

Lisa Oxenham
@lisaoxenham
Beauty & Style Director at Marie Claire UK. Art Director/Brand Consultant
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