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Limiting Your Kids’ Screen Time

"A one or two hours of TV time is enough"
By: Vanessa ValenzuelaLimiting Your Kids’ Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that kids 2 years old and up spend no more than one to two hours a day max on screen time. For kids below 2 years old, the AAP discourages this activity entirely.

Too much screen timehas been linked to the following:

· Attention and behavioral problems. Inarguably the one of the most noticeable traits among children nowadays is their short attention span. Captivating colors, sounds and camera moves of certain kiddie programs make it more difficult for children to shift and maintain their own attention for other things later on, says educational psychologist Dr. Jane Healy.

· Irregular sleep. The more the child watches TV, the more likely he’ll end up having problems at night trying to fall asleep. This robs your child of the precious hours that his body needs to repair and regenerate. Sleep loss in kids can also lead to increased snacking and fatigue.

· Obesity. When kids intently watch too much TV everyday, they develop an appetite for eating calorie-packed junk food like chips, soda, candies, etc. This makes them likely to develop the habit of overeating without them even noticing it.

· Poor academic performance. Habitual TV watching or video game playing has been linked to poor academic performance. You don’t need to be an expert to infer that a child who spends more time on entertainment gadgets rather than studying his lessons or doing homework won’t do as great as his peers during class discussions.

· Desensitization to violence. If you’re the type of parent who doesn’t sensor what your child watches or plays with, this can be a problem. Certain TV shows and video games may contain too much violence that can desensitize your little one to such behavior to a point where he or she may see them as socially “acceptable” actions. According to the AAP, there has been "a very strong link" found between exposure to TV programs that are violent and aggressive behavior in children.

If you realized you’ve been too lax on your child and he has already developed the habit – don’t fret. You’re still not too late! You will just have to wean him from his habit slowly.

Choose quality. Start limiting the programs, video games and websites that your child watches or visits and allow only high-quality educational programs, games and sites.

According to Yale University's Family Television Research and Consultation Center co-director, Dorothy Singer, EdD, studies show that preschoolers who watch educational programs score better on math and reading tests. These children also manifest improvements both socially and cognitively.

Change the family’s habit of having background TV. This is actually a typical behaviour in many Filipino households – keeping the TV on while doing chores or while eating meals just as background noise. If you want to discipline your child, you’ll have to keep temptation away from him.

Keep all screens out of the bedroom. As explained earlier, studies showed that having a TV inside a child’s bedroom affects his performance in school. Make it a point to include all screens – tablets, laptops, and computers – out of the bedroom. Keep these gadgets and appliances in the common areas.

Watch with your little one. This not only allows you to bond with your child, you can also be there to answer his questions about the program he is watching. Add the fact that you get to hold on to the remote control and switch to other channels if you find the current program to be inappropriate.

Encourage active screen time. You know you can still keep your family physically active even while watching TV or playing videos. You can watch dance-themed shows and encourage your child to jiggle along. You can also buy video games that make use of sensors and take cues from the player’s physical movements. I know many adults who make use of these interactive video games as part of their daily exercise regimen.

Avoid using screen time as a reward or punishment. I know many parents do this – either allow or take away screen time based on a child’s behaviour. Doing this makes screen time seem all the more important to a child.

Introduce other entertaining activities. Outside of the 2-hour a day limit, you can encourage your child to spend his free time doing other things such as hanging out with friends, playing with toys, reading educational books, doing art crafts or playing musical instruments.

Your child is a thinking human being and not a robot. If he is old enough to understand, its best to explain to him why it’s important to do other things with his free time than watching TV, surfing the net or playing video games. Explain the negative effects to him if left uncontrolled.

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