Eyes on Me, Ears Listening, Screens Off!
If you think about it, adults have a lot of competition from video screens.
Consider this: How many times have you spoken to your child lately and had to remind him or her to look away from the screen and look at you? Come to think of it, have you counted the number of video screens in your house? TV screens, computer screens, smartphone screens, IPod screens, tablet screens and so forth consume our environment these days. They are even on the microwave and washing machine, too! We walk around with our eyes focused on these small rectangles giving us information 24/7.
- First, we know that ALL screens aren’t bad. Children who watch educational programming are learning, and adults need screens to keep us informed about the latest news. Middleschoolers and teens use computers to research and write papers. There are lots of great video games that provide entertainment and stress relief.
- Many violent acts (on screen) are perpetrated by the "good guys," whom kids have been taught to admire. Even though kids are taught by their parents that it's not right to hit, television says it's OK to bite, hit, or kick if you're the good guy. This can lead to confusion when kids try to understand the difference between right and wrong. And the "bad guys" on TV aren't always held responsible or punished for their actions.
- Educational programming may not be harmful, but it isn’t likely to make your child that much smarter. In fact, in 2009, the Walt Disney Company began offering refunds for Baby Einstein products based on evidence that the products weren't educational. Some educational videos over-promise what they can deliver, and finding quality educational videos can be tricky.
- Elevated screen time suppresses the release of melatonin, which can affect healthy growth. Did you know that “healthy levels of melatonin help regulate sleep, the immune system and the onset of puberty”? A recent study in Great Britain found that “when children who watched an average amount of TV had all screen time removed, their melatonin levels went up by 30 percent after one week.”
Here's the challenge:
Come up with a family TV / screen schedule that you all agree upon each week. And make sure to turn off the TV [screens] when the "scheduled" program is over instead of surfing. Set limits with your children, depending on their age and maturity level. Two or Three hours per day should be plenty for most children.
Talk to kids about what they see on TV / video screens and share your own beliefs and values. Keep your own ears open to how your children describe a situation on TV. It’s likely very different from how you perceive it.
Set a good example by limiting your own TV / screen viewing.
Treat TV / screens as a privilege to be earned — not a right. Stock the room in which you have your TV with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, kids' magazines, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.) to encourage kids to do something other than watch the tube.
Don't turn TV / screens into preschool, or a babysitter. Educational TV and games haven't proven to be of any benefit for school readiness. The best preparation for your children involves spending time with them, reading, talking, and exposing them to the world.
Replace screen time with books. Children who are surrounded by books have longer attention spans, enhanced memory and higher levels of concentration. Children’s reading scores improve dramatically when their parents are involved in helping them learn to read.
Remember: You have the power when it comes to electronics and screens.
You pay the bills!