Wed 13 July 2016
How do you manage screen time at home? Children’s tech researcher Dr Kristy Goodwin says the key is creating a balance of different activities in the playtime mix.
“We need to balance kids screen time and green time, so making sure that kids do tap, swipe and pinch, but also that they have time to explore outdoors, hang upside down and play in nature,” says Kristy.
“We actually know that time in nature provides something called the restorative theory, so we know that brains can recalibrate when they get time to unplug. When we’re constantly tethered to technology, children’s sensory system is on overload and this causes their nervous system to almost become saturated. Time in nature helps brains to calm down and reduce their stress levels.”
Avoid “digital dependence”
Using screens every now and then is fine, but you need to avoid the situation that every time the kids are bored or frustrated, they rely on technology to placate them or calm them down.
She recommends making a list of activities that your kids really enjoy and planning them into your calendar. Kristy also has what she calls a ‘bored box’ in her house with toys that her kids don’t get to play with that often. Crack open the Duplo, Lego and building blocks!
Review your own screen use
“We fret about our kid’s digital habits, but we haven’t really stopped to think about our own digital dependence,” says Kristy. She encourages parents and carers to talk about it and negotiate some parameters, and this means developing healthier media habits ourselves.
These days many of us feel compelled to answer emails and messages immediately, but often it’s not urgent. A study conducted by the technology security company AVG found that 32% of Aussie kids wished their parents used their digital devices a lot less. So don’t think they don’t notice!
Kristy says the first step is acknowledgement. Noting technology was creeping into her parenting, she now sets times when she checks social media - times when her kids are at pre-school, school or otherwise occupied.
Leave your phone at home
Another simple strategy for disconnecting is leaving the phone at home or in the glovebox of the car. We tell ourselves that we need to be contactable 24/7, but as Kristy points out, we simply don’t.
“I could see myself getting frustrated when my children were trying to ask me questions and I was trying to respond to an email, cook dinner simultaneously and run the bath,” says Kristy. Her solution was to put her phone out of sight in the kitchen, but it was still on, so she could hear it ring if it was something urgent.”