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Children of the screen

Do you struggle to reduce your child’s screen times?

A study found that 37% parents allow their children to spend between 1 – 2 hours of their day playing on gadgets such as an iPad or tablet and 28% confessed their children spend a more intense 2 – 3 hours a day in front of a screen1. With 4 in 5 of parents believing that technology is aiding their child’s development and 28% believing it will encourage their child to be more ‘tech savvy’,  it is easy to see why 35% of us are reaching for a gadget to entertain our kids1.      

In 2013, it was reported that a four year old girl was so addicted to using her iPad that she was receiving psychiatric treatment2. Doctors said that her addiction was so severe that she would experience withdrawal symptoms if the device was taken away.

Psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham described the symptoms of children who are addicted to their handheld devices:

“They can't cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour when they are taken away.”

It only takes a quick search to find parents on Mumsnet whose children may not be as severe but are similarly struggling to reduce their screen times…

One parent commented:

“Obviously too much screen time is bad for children. But it's just so good for me. When they are on the Wii/PC they aren't arguing, they aren't annoying me, I can get on with stuff etc. and it's starting to get way too easy to say "ok, just another 20 minutes then" instead of saying "time to turn the Wii off now and come and play a board game with me". I know that I need to do it but I do find it hard.” (Mumsnet)

Sound familiar? Fear not, you’re not alone! We asked a Health-on-Line member to share with us his own experience of screen times during the summer holidays…

“The kids have been bugging me for ages to get a new computer as the old one was too slow or as they put it “laggy”. Apparently it was so bad they couldn’t do their homework on it, a conundrum for any parent, although I did suspect the real reason was so they could spend the summer holidays playing the latest computer games!”

“To help fill their time in the summer holidays I dragged out the buying process until we returned from a week away at the beginning of the holidays. We went around the shops as a family trying out all the different types until we all settled on an all-in-one desktop with a large touchscreen. When we got it home I left my 12 year old son in charge of setting it all up while I was at work. Unfortunately he was so distracted by his need to test out its ability to play online games with his friends, so I ended up sorting out all the boring stuff at the weekend. When I leave for work in the morning he’s busy playing on it, and when I get home he’s still on it. His mum does drag him away from it in the day and forces him to join the real world and get some exercise. Unfortunately, during one gaming session he tried to move the screen and somehow managed to drop it on his head and crack it. He was fine, and more importantly (for him) he can still game on it, but when we get the repair bill we know where his pocket money will be going for a while!!?”

“The main discussion between mums this summer holiday is around how long their kids are spending on their screens. Whether, it’s an iPod, iPad, smartphone or pc it seems that they can’t get enough of their handheld device; more than a quarter of children in the UK own a handheld computer before they reach the age of eight3. Our 9 year old daughter is addicted to talking to her friend online, whether is through Skype, FaceTime or Ovoo. Even when her friends come over they end up talking to each other or their other friends online! She starts first thing in the morning so we’ve had to make it clear that she doesn’t video message around us until we’re dressed! And they’re still messaging each other late into the night. She has to give up her iPad to us before she goes to bed so she can’t message through the night. And that’s without all the games she wants to play on it, TV shows she wants to watch and shopping she wants to do on it. It’s hard for the mum’s to police and if it keeps them out of their hair on a wet day then what’s the harm? One thing’s for sure, when the summer holidays are over and they’re back at school the rules will get tighter again.”

How much screen time should your child be limited too?

Dr Aric Sigman, a leading child development expert suggests that the ideal screen time per day for a child based on their age4:

3-7 years: 30 minutes – 1 hour

7-12 years: 1 hour

12-15 years: 1 hour 30 minutes

16+: 2 hours

Reducing your child’s screen time is no easy task and as the new school year approaches you may be more pressed to relinquish your child’s iPad, in order to focus their concentration on the year of learning ahead… fear not as in our next blog we will be giving you hints and tips on how to get your kids more active.    

Sources:

  1. PC Advisor – How much screen time is healthy for children?   
  2. Daily Mail – Four year old girl is Britain’s youngest iPad addict
  3. Daily Mail – The really early adopters: 2 million under 8’s own a tablet
  4. Telegraph – Why summer holidays are worse for children than ever
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