An increasing number of children are adept at using a mobile phone or tablet even before they can talk. On the one hand, children could benefit from being digitally literate from an early age. On the other hand, in order to learn to communicate effectively with other people, they need to experience the give and take of conversation and face-to-face interaction.
Being glued to a screen for hours has other disadvantages for older children too. Research from Harvard University and other universities around the world has established a link between screen time and childhood obesity. Too much screen time can also disturb sleep patterns and more generally get your child used to being a couch potato – reluctant to go outdoors and play with other children or toys. Childhood is a time to experience all kinds of fun and play, such as sports and games, make-believe, craft and other activities. However, the easiest form of recreation – sitting in front of an entertainment screen – is limiting the amount of time kids spend on these far more beneficial options.
Experts recommend that a child spend no more than two hours with a screen. Here are some tips to cut down screen time:
- Encourage playing with toys: Nurture your child’s curiosity and creativity by providing them with fun, educational and interactive toys and games. Building blocks, arts and crafts and play dough are all examples of interesting play that most kids will love.
- Include them in your activities: Instead of plopping your little one in front of the TV while you do the laundry, try to include them in activities. Kids love to feel a sense of responsibility, so putting them in charge of small tasks or letting them help in any way can keep them off the screen and increase the time you spend talking to them too.
- Interact with your child: It’s not enough to forbid TV time if your child is going to be bored at home. Try to set aside time to play with your child, telling them stories and asking about their thoughts and their day.
- Go outside: One of the best ways to keep your child’s mind off video games or TV shows is to show them the appeal of the real world – the outdoors. It’s not always feasible to plan elaborate outings but even a short trip to a park, an evening walk or grocery shopping can be a nice change of scene for your child.
- Set an example: Limit your own mindless screen time so that you don’t tempt your child to go seek out the remote control. With more personal interaction, their need to pass the time on an electronic screen is likely to lessen.
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