When I was a kid, if I stared too much at the TV I was warned my eyes would go square and I would need glasses. My parents only had to contend with 4-5 TV channels and some pretty awful computer games - if you have ever played 'Manic Miner' you will know! So kids were saved from this right-angled doom fairly easily by parents who wanted to keep a healthy balance.
Parents today are fighting a real battle. By 10 years of age 50% of children own a smartphone (it doubles between the ages of 9 and 10) and nearly 50% of children aged 5-15 are using tablets to watch TV programmes as well as a television. YouTube is the preferred content platform - live TV only accounted for 16-19% of viewing in 2019 (it drops a little in favour of VoD services like Netflix as children get older*). Plus we have the hugely engaging and compelling world of Social Media and computer games that are now totally immersive.
What do you think about this - 45% of smartphone owners aged 8-11 are allowed to take it to bed with them. A quarter of 3-4 year olds have their own tablet and of those 15% are allowed to take it to bed...
Oh and then there was a lockdown...or two...and parents rose to the challenge of home schooling while resisting alcohol and skipping around the local park in the fresh air between lessons. Well that's not true is it! We might have risen to the challenge but screen time limits went out the window and clean over the rainbow the kids stuck to it. Gin measures also grew steadily.
There is plenty of compelling evidence for excessive screen time being a bad thing and we will touch on some of this in other posts. Like everything in life, moderation is important and kid's sleep, mental wellbeing, physical fitness and real life social interactions have all suffered.
So what can we do? Here are three ideas that could help:
Talk to the kids. Things have to change - expect resistance - they are hooked and it will take persistence and a patient approach. That first G&T in the pub was always going to be a shock and the kids will need time to adjust too! Reduce screen use a nibble at a time.
Talk to the parents of your kid's friends - they have the same challenge and a unified approach will help avoid the 'but <insert friends name here> can use his/her xbox whenever he/she wants' conversation. The kids are all talking to each other all the time online and are united in their quest for more screen time - parents need to unite too!
This is a tricky one: set a good example! Adult use of screens has also soared and we all have new device habits as a result of the lockdown.
Good luck, let us know how you get on in the comments!
If you would like further support, please comment or use the forum - we are building a community here and will do all we can to help.
* 2019 data from OFCOM