During remote learning, our students relied on technology and screen time to continue their learning from home, and to stay connected with their peers. However, since returning to school, excessive screen time is no longer necessary and can instead lead to unhealthy habits.
It’s almost impossible to avoid our children using screens, so instead of removing screen time altogether we should ensure they use it more moderately. Having some screen time can enhance creativity, communication skills and development, however too much screen time is a bad idea. Too much time on digital devices is often linked to hyperactivity, lack of sleep, as well as emotional, behavioral and even academic problems. Limiting screen time is important to provide your children with greater energy levels, enhance their wellbeing and help them maintain social skills with friends and family.
So, how do you know if your children are spending too much time on their screens? The Office of the eSafety Commissioner website lists the following warning signs:
- Online activities interfering with general health and wellbeing
- Obsession with particular a websites or game
- Anger when being asked to take a break from online activity
- Appearing anxious or irritable when away from the computer
- Spending increasing amounts of time online
- A declined interest in social activities like meeting friends or playing sport
- Excessive tiredness, ongoing headaches, eye strain and sleep disturbance
- Decline in academic performance and failing to complete schoolwork
- Seemingly isolated or withdrawn
Now are that we are amid school holidays, it is the best time log out and hit refresh on the device use. Even if you’re child doesn’t show any of the above warning signs, it is still important to take some designated time away from electronic devices and take part in a digital detox.
Why should your children take a digital detox?
- To develop a healthy use of technology
- Helps children better understand the importance of technology and how it can be used in a positive way i.e. for education and learning
- Helps children destress and recover from pressures and tensions often generated by the overexposure to the digital world
- Allows your children to focus more on authentic social interactions, and reconnecting with nature in the physical world
- Will help them learn how to be bored and deal with boredom
Below is a list of activities you can enjoy as a family without the need for screens:
- Go outdoors and into nature – Go for a walk, or even a hike, go on a picnic, go to a fruit picking farm, visit a park… Explore your very own backyard.
- Get competitive – Discover some old board games, or buy some new ones, create a quiz for the family to enjoy, or perhaps take it outside and create your own Amazing Race or family Survivor.
- Become a MasterChef – learn how to make something new, bake together or even create an “at home” restaurant
- Get creative – Paint, draw, write, collage, photograph, or buy some clay and do some pottery.
- Be active – get up and dance, go for a run or a bike ride, try rock climbing, tennis or even trampolining.
Making a list of alternative sources of entertainment is a great way of creating time away from technology. This makes school holidays the perfect time for your child to start a digital detox. However, beyond fun activities, there are actions you can take as a parent or guardian to further reduce your child’s screen time. Below is a list of ideas to help keep digital use to a minimum:
- Be a role model – Reduce your own screen time and make it a family digital detox, your children are more likely to get off their screens if you do the same and lead by example.
- Tech free meals – Ensure that mealtime is family time, which means no devices should be at the table when eating. Instead enjoy each other’s company, discuss an interesting topic or talk about your day.
- Become more available – if you are reducing time spent on digital devices, you must increase the time you are available to your children. It is important to make time for them, and to remind them that you are always happy to spend time with them.
- Turn off screens before bed – Make sure that your children have at least 1 hour of no screen time before they go to sleep, ensuring an overall better sleep.
- Have an open conversation – Talk to your children about their screen time, ask for their input and form ideas together for how they can take on a digital detox. They are more likely to respond better, if they feel like they have been involved in the decision-making process.