With families spending a lot more time at home over the last year, most of us have resorted to using TV, tablets, computers and gaming consoles to entertain and occupy our children whilst we are working from home, or to complete homework and online classes. A recent study by Pietrobelli et al., (2020), stated that screen exposure increased by 4 hours per day during COVID-19 lockdown! This level of screen time could potentially result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (from increased sedentary time) and depression (Kremer et al., 2014; Robinson et al., 2015).
Smart Phones have the ability to track phone usage (iOS = screen usage; Android = Digital wellbeing). This will show just how much you’ve used your phone device in a day!
As a parent, you’ll be able to set a timer on apps, causing the phone to lock or turn off once a certain screen-time has been reached! If it’s shown that you spend 3 hours per day on 1 app, try and limit this to 2 hours for the first week, then 1hr 30 in week 2, 1hr in week 3, slowly coming down over several weeks!
Try introducing 5-10 minute breaks for every 30 minutes of screen time. Set an alarm to go off after 30 minutes, and when it goes off get the kids up and engaging in something they like doing. This could be a stretch, a dance, preparing a healthy snack or popping outside to the garden or a short walk. As a parent, encouraging your child to go outside (e.g. into the garden or on walks), may reduce the chances of them becoming short sighted, as research suggests that sunshine helps reduce the risk of myopia (short sightedness)
Make dinner time family time. When eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, keep portable devices away from you. Enjoy this time socialising with your family, savouring your time together!!
Whether for education or entertainment, try listening to podcasts or audiobooks, rather than watching TV or YouTube and give your eyes a bit of a rest from screens.
Encourage the kids to find a new hobby, perhaps learning a musical instrument, arts or crafts or an activity like yoga, karate or dance. Try and spend a little time every day practising a new skill or hobby! You could even start a jigsaw puzzle, or build something together as a family!
Take time to slip into unconscious thoughts, relax and unwind. Doing this can be really beneficial and is even backed up by research! A study by Harvard University, showed that just eight weeks of meditation can make you feel less fearful and have less strong negative emotions.
There’s some great guided meditations for children out there, including the Headspace for Kids app.
Screen time is inevitable, especially at the moment when so much of our normal life’s offline activities are being delivered online (like catching up with with family and friends, school work, and extra-curricular activities). So make sure you schedule in times where being on a screen is mandatory, in balance with offline activities.
For example, in between ZOOM calls or online learning, schedule in time for some arts & crafts, exercise, cooking, helping with the household chores, reading a story book or playing a board game.
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