Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed its rules for screen time for children to meet more modern times. Much has changed since I had my first child in 2007, back when iPhones had just come out and iPads did not exist. Establishing healthy screen time boundaries has been a priority for me from the beginning.
As a health educator, I have read up on the studies about too much screen time. It can lead to attention problems, sleep disorders and being overweight. My goal is to raise emotionally, intellectually and physically healthy children. While our bodies continue to get acclimated to our advancing technological times, setting healthy boundaries is key for their physical growth and emotional well-being.
A few tried-and-true guidelines:
No screen time while dining out or at the dinner table
No iPhones at restaurants? YES! Remember: We are made for relationships, and having our kids learn the art of conversing starts by watching us. Engaging in lighthearted conversations while dining out is, unfortunately, a learned skill-set these days. Lead by example: put your phone away and converse. Each night at dinner, I ask my kids to share the peak and the pit of their day. By the time we are all done sharing, we have finished our meal and had a wonderful conversation.
Schedule unstructured playtime
It stimulates creativity and fosters imagination.
No screen time two hours before bedtime
There is plenty of evidence that blue light, emitted by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and many other electronic devices, is impacting on the quantity and quality of the sleep we are getting. Getting blue light naturally from the sun is important; it helps us to stay awake. However, blue light that comes from screens tells our brains that it isn’t time to sleep. This disrupts our pineal gland from producing melatonin. Melatonin is the most important factor and plays an important role in our metabolism and our keeping our immune system healthy. This is true for all ages, but more important for our young children, and here’s why: One of the important hormones that is released during the deepest stages of sleep is Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This is essential for our body to heal, recover, grow and to perform well in athletics.
Disconnect to reconnect
If you are giving into your child for more screen time, ask yourself, Is it really for my sanity? Or is it to keep my child quiet? Saying no will empower them to think of something else to do. If not, show them another option. Building, playing dolls and coloring are all useful ways to grow their minds and learn other fundamental skills.