It is holiday break and part of the inactivity problem adding to the childhood obesity problem is the lack of physical activity. Computers, Smart Phones, TV and video games all reduce the amount of physical activity. While some ‘screen time’ is good it needs to be balanced with other activities, but just how much screen time is too much? As students are increasingly obsessed with screen time, parents need to set limits on how much TV and online time their students are allocated. Allowing unfettered access to the online world may cause students to live lives that are too sedentary and may also affect their mental, physical andsocial development.
Why Limit Screen Time?
While allowing your students to spend as much time as they like watching TV or online does keep them quiet and happy, it can also have negative effects on their health and behavior. The sedentary lifestyle encouraged by time online can lead to childhood obesity and an increased incidence of diabetes.
Too much screen time can lead to irregular sleeping patterns. This, in turn, can lead to attention deficits, poor academic performance and weight gain.
According to the May Clinic: “Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. Exposure to video games is also linked with an increased risk of attention problems in children. Watching excessive amounts of TV at age 4 is linked with bullying at ages 6 through 11.”
Children under 3 should not be watching TV or playing with phones or tablets. According to the BBC: “Dr Aric Sigman is warning that screens “may produce” an increased level of dopamine in children’s brains. He suggests this could lead to a dependency on screen media when they are older.”
In France, TV shows aimed at an audience younger than 3 are banned to protect younger children from too much exposure.
According to a study by Public Health in England, children who spend most of their time in front of a screen have a lower self-esteem and are more prone to emotional problems.
How To Limit Screen Time
If you think your student is spending too much time online, limit their access to the internet to just a couple of hours a day. It’s important that you discuss with them why they should limit screen time and the rules around accessing the internet and watching TV.
Don’t eat in front of the TV, but take meal times to connect as a family. Be a good example by unplugging regularly yourself.
Be more active as a family. Plan activities that get your family moving and out of the house.
Don’t leave the TV on in the background as this will prove to be distracting. Move TVs and computers from bedrooms into common areas.
Not only is it important to limit screen time, it’s also important to keep tabs on what your student is being exposed to online. You can enforce screen time limitations by programming phones, computers and tablets to switch off after the designated time allowances have been reached.