Most children in Australia are using more than the recommended two hours of screen time each day. Much of the screen time used by children is spent watching television, but other screen activities include iPad, video games and computer play.
While some screen time can have benefits for your child, spending too much time in sedentary activities is not good for their health or their growing brains.
Set rules for screen time
A good way to reduce the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen is to set limits. Children who have no limits around screen time such as television viewing tend to watch more of it. Not only does setting limits promote more active behaviour but it also sets your child up to be a better user of technology and screens as they get older.
Once a screen is turned on, use a simple timer to indicate when it must be turned off again. Have rules around when screens can be used too: this might mean no screen time before school or only after school for one hour, or only on weekends. It might take a little adjusting if you have no limits at the moment, but it shouldn’t take long for everyone to adjust to the new rules.
Join in the play
Encourage active play by joining in or teaching your child how to play a new game. Children are much more likely to get involved with activities if adults are joining in too. Take your child outside and be an active participant. Take the dog for a walk, walk to school or the shops instead of driving and play together at the park – it has health benefits for everyone.
Set a good example
If you want your child to spend less time in front of a screen, you should too. This means putting down your phone and modelling the type of behaviour you expect from them when it comes to screens. Put your phone or tablet away when you’re spending time together and don’t scroll through your phone when you’re supposed to be spending time with your child.
(If you have an iPhone, you can set your own screen time limits or view how much time each week you spend on your phone. It can be a real eye-opener!)
Connect with the natural world
Children are drawn to technology but too much is not a good thing. With more time than ever being spent in front of screens, children are becoming disconnected from the natural world. Plan activities where they can get dirty, interact with nature and wind-down. Being outside has many benefits from our children (and for us too), assisting with mental health as well as physical health.
Reducing the amount of time our children spend in front of screens is great for their health. Encourage outside play and activity as much as possible and set a good example too.