28 Sep More Computer Time Please
Children and Electronic Devices
Trying to put limits on computer time is one of the key challenges facing parents today. Children’s exposure to electronic devices has increased dramatically in the past couple of years and some schools even require children to have a tablet or iPad at school from early years.
The Department of Health (DoH) Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines currently recommends no screen time for children under 2 years of age, with up to one hour a day for children aged 2 to 5 years and up to two hours a day for children from 5 to 12 years of age. Part of DoH’s concern is that increased screen time is leading to reduced levels of physical activity amongst children.
There is no doubt that electronic devices are here to stay and they are part of the way young people communicate and bond with each other – sharing experiences about minecraft, skylanders and other popular games. However, the aim is to work towards an ‘everything in moderation’ approach to provide children with a healthy balance of screen time and other activities so they learn to socialise in person rather than through their electronic device. Many parents try to place time limits on screen time, but this can be genuinely difficult if you have to keep an eye on the clock whilst trying to get a bunch of other jobs done. Then there is an inevitable argument when you tell your child their time is up or they plead with you for ‘just another 5 minutes’.
One way some parents are getting around this is by installing apps that shut the device down after an agreed amount of time. Such ‘time-limiting’ apps are certainly useful, however it is essential that internet use for primary school age children is still closely supervised as it is frightening how viewing a minecraft video can, within a few simple clicks, lead to something potentially unsuitable for young eyes. Always make sure that you check-in regularly to see what your child is viewing and if they do not want you to see what’s on the screen, then that’s probably a good reason to take a closer look!
Julie Steward – Psychologist
Have a Family Games Night!
Many people will recall childhood memories of the hours spent playing board games with friends. Back before video games appeared, this was one way to while away the time when it was too hot or rainy to go outside.
These days board games don’t get played as much as they used to and yet they are a great medium for teaching children valuable skills under the guise of having fun. As children grow it is important to foster their independence by exposing them to greater levels of responsibility, so that they can learn to plan and organise things for themselves. These skills are often referred to as executive function and self-regulation skills and many parents will recognise how these skills can differ greatly even between children in the same family. For example, children with strong executive function skills will have no trouble with focussing their attention, remembering instructions and planning homework tasks, whereas other children struggle greatly without a parent to organise them and guide them step by step through the process.
Many board games or card games require children focus their attention and plan ahead in order to beat their opponent. For example, in the card game UNO children soon learn that they need to plan the best order to use their cards, so that they make it more difficult for their opponent to win. Children practice their ability to forward plan within a game and this skill can be applied to other life skills such as thinking out the steps to complete a homework task. As children become more proficient at planning, it can be valuable to extend their skills by introducing them to more complex strategy games such as chess. These types of games require children to multi task by planning their own moves and also anticipate their opponents move. Even games like Monopoly are encouraging children to plan ahead when thinking about what properties they might need to buy.
So next time the kids are saying they are bored and have nothing to do, challenge them to a board game. Not only will it help them build some skills, it is an opportunity to spend some quality time with them doing something interactive and fun.
Julie Steward – Psychologist