Those are my two goals with this post. I hope, between my challenge and your reflection, these thoughts and insights can lead to productive change for you and your kids!
Kids and screen time
Let’s start with some facts about screen time for kids, to understand why it’s become a topic of conversation:
- In 2019, NPR reported that the average age that a kid receives a smartphone is 11.
- In 2015, a Washington Post report showed that teens spend almost nine hours a day in front of a screen. “Tweens”, kids aged 8-12, spend about six hours a day in front of a screen.
- Newsweek reports that those numbers are about the same in a 2019 study.
All three of these reported studies were conducted by Common Sense Media. They have been studying kids and media usage since 2003.
Along with the rise in screen time, obesity among kids ages 2-19 has increased from 5.2% (1971-1974) to 19.3% (2017-2018).
Screen time and the impact on kids
You might be thinking, “Okay. Thanks for sharing, but I’m not surprised by those numbers. Times have changed, and we live in a technology-rich world. Like it or not, it is a huge part of our culture.”
And I cannot argue with that, but we have a chance to reverse the damage this is doing to our kids’ mental and physical health.
If you were born in the ’80s or earlier, you lived a totally different life than your children are living now (a thought we’re reminded of daily).
When we were kids, we were outside constantly… playing in the rain, building snow forts and having snowball fights, making up games, riding our bikes, and so many other things that were all OUTSIDE! We were healthy people because our bodies and our minds were active. We were created to move, work and play, and that’s what we did!
Screen time affects kids’ brains
I know this is a very real and sensitive issue for many people.
Our children’s mental health is on a huge downward spiral, and that’s not just my opinion – it’s reflected in the data.
Social media is playing a big part in this decline. Dr. John Medina cited a 2017 study when he stated, “… the overexposure to two platforms, Instagram and Snapchat, powerfully (and negatively) influence a teen’s mental health.”
The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study by the National Institute of Health also conducted research that shows children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests (read a supporting article here).
I could continue to cite studies that show how screen time impairs sleep, increases anxiety, and actually changes the way kids’ brains work, but I think you get my point and likely have already seen some of these things to be true.
My screen time challenge
If your child spends hours of their time in front of a screen each day, I’d like to challenge you to change it up a bit.
Set very strict boundaries for one week, limiting their time at home in front of their screen to 30 minutes.
In place of their iPad or the tv, have some fun things planned for them…play a board game, go for a bike ride, cook dinner (and clean up) together, go to a live show, or a sporting event.
It may be hard the first part of the week. But, as the week goes on, you will notice a positive change in your child, and you’ll be glad you did it!
There is mounting research to support these changes in our family dynamics, and your kids will benefit in the long run, both cognitively and physically.
Kids need human connection and communication
Most kids today know how to communicate using technology. But their ability to communicate with others in person is becoming increasingly difficult and awkward.
The next time you are out to eat, look around. It never fails, there will be a family sitting around waiting on their food, and everyone at that table is looking down at their phones. If it’s your family – take a moment to pause and consider a device-less meal.
Spend time talking with your kids, and listen to what they are saying. Talk about your day and how you handled situations that came up… they will learn from that, and so will you!
Challenge yourself. Reflect. Enjoy the journey.