Reducing screen time
Screen time has many positives; the acquisition of knowledge, instant entertainment and opportunities to connect with a community. Despite what the media says, a direct ‘toxic’ effect is contested. However, excessive use is associated with obesity and poorer mental health, possibly due to displacing desirable activities such as sleep, time with family and friends and exercise. As with anything, it’s all about balance, maximizing the positives.
Screen time can be a trigger point for families, so what to do if you want to reduce it?
Sit down in a calm moment, negotiate screen time limits with your children based on their needs. Have a plan that everyone agrees and then the hardest part, be consistent and stick to it.
Be aware what apps and networks young people are engaged with, how these work and what content they are likely to encounter. However, try not to be intrusive or judgmental. This will help keep them safe online and ensure the material they are watching is age appropriate. Video content and games have certification systems to help with this.
Think about your own media use: children will learn from example.
Priorities face-to-face interaction so your children do not miss out on the positive developmental effects of face-to-face interaction.
Be snack aware. Screens can distract children from feeling full and your child may be exposed to advertising promoting unhealthy foods.
Protect sleep: have a routine where screens are switched off one hour before sleep.
For more information, have a look at https://www.rcph.ac.uk/screen-time
Dr Gabrielle Pendlebury is a child and adolescent psychiatrist specializing in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and ADHD. She is the Clinical Director for psychiatric services at Onebright (Onebright.com), one of the UK’s leading providers of mental health services.
Contact: Dr Gabrielle Pendlebury