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Growing up digital

The digital age has made screens more accessible and portable than ever. Although the full implications of screen time exposure on young kids whose brains are still developing is not a known fact yet, there is concerns that screen use can affect cognitive and language development, lead to problems in school and make some mental health disorders worse.

As children mature, they’re exposed to more screens daily, raising a child in the 21st century has its fair share of challenges. Screens and the internet have really changed the parenting game, sparking genuine concerns like, ‘How should my kids interact with screens?’, ‘Are screens bad for them?’ ‘What rules should I be enforcing?’ Not all screen time is equal. Screens can be used positively but excessive use, or viewing the wrong sort of content, can negatively impact your kids.

It’s obviously not great for your children to be glued to a computer screen for eight hours a day. (Same goes for you.) Limiting exposure can help you and your children enjoy screens in a healthy way and it’s important to make an effort to spend time and socialize together promoting activities like playing outdoors, family bike rides or participating in sports.

In the 'Get Up and Grow' initiative, the Australian Federal Government released their recommended TV and screen times for children aged five years and under. They said that toddlers under two should not have any screen time at all. Children under age 2 don’t learn from screens as well as they do from live interactions. Their reasons include:

· TV / screen time reduces the amount of time toddlers have for active play, social contact with others and chances for development.

· TV / screen time may affect the development of a full range of eye movement.

· TV / screen time may reduce the length of time your toddler can stay focussed.

For children two to five years, the Government recommends just one hour a day of watching TV and partaking in screen-based activities. Studies suggest that toddlers who have more hours of TV / screen time are more likely to:

· Be overweight.

· Be less physically active.

· Drink more sugary drinks.

· Snack on foods higher in fat, salt, and sugar.

· Have fewer social interactions.

Creating clear rules around screen time can help reduce misbehaviour, and there are wonderful Apps to install onto their devices that will block the device when they have reached their allocated time limit. Some ideas on how to raise the digital era includes:

· Have a "no screen" policy during meal times. (This will ensure that you still develop strong bonds with your children during important meal times)

· Try not to spend lots of time in front of a screen, or let the kids see you spending lots of time in front of a screen.

· Wherever possible, choose and encourage non-screen-based activities and entertainment and let the whole family partake in them.

· Avoid having screens in bedrooms or study/quiet areas.

· Use a timer or app to enforce the screen time you set.

Finally avoid the use of screens up to 2 hours before bedtime. Screens contain blue lights, this form of light has been found to have a disruptive effect on our sleep. While it may seem hard to believe, the verdict (and science) is out on the exact relationship shared between blue light and sleep quality. Blue light has such a profound impact on your sleep simply because it directly affects your body's production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for making you feel sleepy, and blue light suppresses the production of this important hormone.

Below is a link to a ParentTV movie by Maggie Dent with some ideas for navigating the tricky issue of kids and screen-time. How much is too much and what strategies can be put in place to make sure our children shine even in this fast-paced technological age.



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