There’s no denying that we are living in a highly technology-driven world. Screen devices are constantly available to us. We have experienced life before smartphones, tablets and video games were within arm’s reach, however, most of our children don’t know a life without screens.
At Kids That Go, we help children to develop skills such as, self-regulation, coordination, sensory processing, social and motor skills in order for them to complete functional tasks (i.e. toileting, handwriting, sleeping, feeding, making friends, etc.). Children develop these necessary skills through observing and engaging in the typical every day activities of life. Spending too much time on screens can inhibit a child’s ability to engage in these activities and this may negatively impact their development.
Here’s some of the key signs to know of when your child has had too much screen time (there are many more):
- Decreased attention
- Increased moodiness or frustration
- Poor posture, core strength or fine motor skills
- Behavioural issues
- Issues with physical, mental and emotional health
So how can we balance screen time with other activities?
1. Set Clear Boundaries
To achieve healthy screen time, all screens should be used in moderation. This means setting very clear boundaries for your child and their screen time. Recommendations include:
- Allowing only short periods of screen time. You can use a timer (e.g. alarm, clock, visual timer) to give your child a predictable end to their screen time. Some devices also have ‘Screen Time’ settings so that you can set allowances and limits on your child’s screen time/app use. An hour or less per day is the recommended screen time for younger children (ages 2-5) and no more than two hours per day for school-aged children (ages 5-17).
- Avoiding screen time before bed. Using screens before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep and can result in less hours of quality sleep. Setting a curfew on screen time one hour before bedtime can help ensure that your child is getting enough sleep. Alternative relaxing activities are recommended, such as, reading, colouring or doing puzzles to help your child to wind down.
2. Get Moving
Encourage your child to move their body and play outdoors. Having regular ‘movement breaks’ in between periods of screen time will benefit your child’s development, mood and general health and wellbeing. Your child needs opportunities to play, to create and to build friendships with others.
How can Occupational Therapy help?
We need to live balanced lives in order to support our own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as our children’s. Occupational therapists can help you to balance your child’s screen time with other important daily activities that are required for their development. If you would like further support with building a balanced routine for screen time or you have questions about your child’s overall development, our therapists at Kids That Go may be able to help.
Madison Brook (Occupational Therapist)