Screen time for kids … exercising parental control.

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Screen time and exercising parental control over my children’s relationship with technology has proved to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a parent, and was one of the key driving forces that encouraged me to start Pipity.

My husband is a big technology fan and a first adopter of many wizzy gizmos and i-gadgets, so the challenge is not insignificant in our house and opportunities to plug in are plentiful. My kids have become very skilled negotiators, talking their way round our screen time rules… “it’s homework” (well it might be for the first 15 mins), “I need to find out the information about Saturday’s match and let Jack know”… (oh and jut quickly check out the latest on Youtube whilst I’m at it).

Added to that I have never been busier, and ironically the demands of running Pipity on my own mean that recently I have been letting my kids plug in for longer than I feel comfortable about. However, the fall-out is that ‘screen anxiety’ has been occupying my Mum guilt/worry brain in the early hours, and I’m keen to address the situation and get back to a happier healthier balance.

I know that I’m not alone, it’s a conversation that I regularly have with friends. And with a little digging into the research out there, my anxieties and instincts about screens aren’t unfounded, and highlight that this is going on in most homes. A survey of 1,000 Mums of children aged 2 - 12 found that 85% use technology to keep the kids occupied while they get on with other activities, with kids spending on average about 17 hours a week in front of a screen - almost double the amount of time spent playing outside (8.8 hours). Another study outlined how screen time creates significant changes in brain chemistry – most notably, in the release of dopamine. This neurotransmitter, also known as the pleasure chemical, is central to addictions from sugar to cocaine, and has led to researchers coining the phrases “digital heroin” and “screen junkies”. It’s worrying, especially when you witness it happening to your own children, I have seen how quickly the desire to plug in takes over a preference to do anything else.

Our experiences of being the first to raise a generation of children in this technology era is a daunting one. We’re in a new age of parenting. Never before have people held entire computers in the palm of their hand, and we’re still figuring out what to do with them and how often. The long term implications are unknown. It’s hard, it really is.

Technology is here to stay though and for all the scary information out there, there is a place in our family for screens. I can see the benefits and appreciate the ease we look up recipes to combine the ingredients remaining in the fridge, create spontaneous medleys of tunes to sing along to in the kitchen, get all the information needed about places we want to visit. My curious kids look things up to find the answer — in the 21st century that’s done online, not to mention communicating with friends and family. So, I have no issue with my kids using screens and technology in moderation, but moderation is the key word, and that is where the challenge lies.

I have posted links to a number of articles below, which provide some sobering reading, and which have spurred me into action. Our screen time rules have become somewhat lax during the dark, chilly wet evenings over the last
couple of months, but I have started actions to redress the balance. I have given my 14 year old twins the articles to read. Like anything addictive that is particularly appealing to teenagers, our solution is to make sure they’re informed and aware, so that they’re able make the right choices for themselves. I’m organising my time to ensure I’m not caught out and ready to give in when the screen negotiation inevitably starts, and ensuring that as a family we talk about the why we need to manage screen time, and agree with the kids how we can make it work together.

I’ll keep you posted with how it’s going, and will post some top tips to keep kids unplugged at a later date!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and any suggestions so please do share them below.

ARTICLES:

Experts call for official guidelines on child screen use: http://bit.ly/2hlmonr

How much screen time is healthy for children? http://bit.ly/1TqGa9X

Screen time guide lines need to be built on Evidence not hype: http://bit.ly/2ik6B6v

What Screen Time can really do to kids brains: http://bit.ly/2hDVtoc

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