Skip the Screen this Summer!
Did you know……….
-the average American child watches 4 or more hours of television each day
-kids aged 6 months to 6 years spend 3 times as many hours watching television as they do being read to
-one recent report noted that children aged 5-15 spend an average of 6 ½ hours per day in front of a screen (smart phone, computer, television)
-another report suggests that children aged 2-12 are spending double the amount of time per week in front of a screen (17 hours) as they do playing outside
Summertime offers our children a much needed break from the rigors of the school year but long blocks of unstructured time may lead to marathon sessions in front of a screen. Our children’s dependence on screen time for entertainment has resulted in a growing list of negative side-effects including:
-decreased social interaction
-delayed speech in younger children
-decreased interpersonal communication skills
-increased sedentary behavior
Noted psychologist and parenting advice expert Dr. Michele Borba reminds us that summertime is a great time to place boundaries on screen time for children and parents too! Here’s how to do it!
Because of our society’s heavy reliance on electronics and television for entertainment, our children often do not know how to occupy their time without them. We need to guide our children towards activities they can do when not in front of a screen. Dr. Borba suggests:
- Teach your children that they don’t need to fill up every minute of every day doing something stimulating. Start a summer book club in your house and have your child keep track of the books that they read. If your child can read on their own, they can keep track on a white board and maybe work toward a reward after they have read a certain number of books. If your children can’t read on their own, if you are able, set aside time in the middle of the day and read to your child.
- Puzzles are a great way to relax and build motor skills in young children. Set aside space on a table where your child can work on puzzles and for older children, leave larger puzzles in progress so that they can be worked on over a period of time.
- Swap a friend for a playdate. Kids like seeing their friends daily at school every day but over the summer they tend not to see each other as often. Invite a friend over one week and trade with that friend to play at their house the next time.
- Some parents/caregivers find it useful to create “activity boxes” as alternatives for watching tv. Use empty shoeboxes or other cardboard boxes and fill them up with inexpensive themed materials that can create an Art Box, Craft Box, Science Box, or Kitchen Box to name a few.
- Plan some fun kitchen time where your kids can participate in making lunch or dinner. Kids love to measure, pour, count things and play in water. For the younger kids, push a chair in front of the kitchen sink and fill it with water and bubbles, the kids will love playing in water and you can get things done at the same time. Adding some fun music to this activity is another great way to teach your kids how to have fun without screens.
- Pull out a board game or a card game and teach your child how to play. Once they master the game they can play with each other or with friends. The same is true for word games or puzzles. Purchase a few age-appropriate puzzle books and let your kids work through them together.
- Don’t forget about exercise. Getting kids moving when at home is not that difficult. Gather up a few balls of different sizes, some jump ropes, hula hoops, beanbags etc. and the game possibilities are endless.
So, be your child’s best example - take charge of your screens this summer and find other ways to have fun with your kids!
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