We are bringing up our children into a world filled with technology. From phones, I-pads, and laptops, to T.V and video games, there are endless opportunities for children to end up sitting on the couch with some sort of screen in front of them.
When I was young, we rode our bikes or scooters around, we played hopscotch, and ran around the neighbourhood, now days it seems hanging out with friends means watching the latest You-Tube video, sitting on social media sites, or playing the latest Playstation game or Wii. Things have definitely changed.
Sure some screen time is educational for children, and can actually be used as an advantage for children. However it is important not to go overboard. Here are a few things I do to make sure my children don’t end up watching a screen for hours on end.
Be an Example
As a work at home mum, this is hard as my kids constantly see me on my laptop or my phone, however I do set some rules. Eg. At meal times, we don’t have our phones around, we sit together eating our meals without our phones, or the T.V on. This gives us time to actually talk about our days and bond.
We hardly watch T.V ourselves, and if we do, It’s when the kids are in bed, so It’s actually not really on when they are around. Children will like to copy behaviours they see, so if they see you sitting watching the T.V they will most likely want to watch too. Instead if they see you reading a book, they may prefer to grab a book themselves.
Choose what they watch
As a rule, I choose the programs my little boy watches and when, he is not just free to put the T.V on and sit there watching. He is allowed to watch one of his favourite programs when it is nap time or bed time so that he can wind down, or also if I am extremely busy and need him to keep quiet for half hour or so!
I select certain programs or I have him watch it on his tablet so I know exactly what he is watching. Most of them are educational in some way. He also has some really great apps with singalongs, and learning activities which are great. I try to offer those first, but when I know he is tired or just needs to chill out, I let him watch one of his programs or some T.V
No TV or video games in the bedroom
If your child has their own T.V or video games in their room, they are more inclined to put it on whenever they’re in their room. And worse yet, when you don’t know. At least when they are in a communal area you can supervise what they are watching and how much of it. Also falling asleep to the T.V is not a good habit to get your child into.
I try to get out the books as much as I can, especially at night time, we have at least half hour reading time before bed. Puzzles are great, and keep the kids occupied for long periods too. Arts & Craft activities are always a big hit, painting, pasting, colouring in etc.
Outside play is great, get them riding on their bikes, kicking a ball around or playing some sort of sport, moving around is better than sitting on the couch watching a screen.
While children are younger it is easier, once they get older it will be much more difficult. Installing good habits while they are young will help curve their own decisions towards those that are better for them in the long run. If they get used to using technology while they’re younger, they’re more likely to continue. Whereas if they learn to love other things such as reading books, spending time with family and friends, or playing sport, they will most likely continue those habits.