The ban on gaming did not extend to social media access. This is an entirely different kettle of fish. Social media brings up all sorts of issues: cyber-bullying, body shaming and access to inappropriate websites (you know the ones I mean, I’m sure). From the outset, we insisted on being able to access phones and tablets. No exceptions. I don’t want to pry too much into my kid’s private lives but a regular check of Snapchat and Instagram is a good way to see what’s being said and who they are following. The other golden rule is no screens in the bedroom. We insist on them all being charged in the kitchen overnight. There have been attempts to circumnavigate this, but all attempts have been thwarted and another conversation about social media and screens has had to be conducted.
While parents concern with screen time boils down to length of use and what they are accessing (a bit of a generalization I know, but I did say it wasn’t a scientific analysis), health care professionals concerns focus on obesity, addiction, mental health and socialization. There are heaps of websites and books offering advice about screen time and chucking out dire warnings. I know, I’ve read a fair few. One of the more balanced articles is by teen counsellor – Maggie Dent. The article focusses on the addictive nature of gaming in teen boys and a suggested 10 point contract you can draw up with your child to manage their screen time. I urge you to take a look (click on link). The contract is not prohibitive and most points are just common sense.
Contrary to all the articles about how screen time is making your kid fat, depressed, angry or socially inept, comes a recent report out of the UK from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (link here). They state that “there is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age”. Controversial stuff and I’m sure it will have the righteous parent up in arms, but I’ve always trusted my doctor for advice, so I’m going to go with them. The report continues “When it comes to screen time we think it’s important to encourage parents to do what is right by their family”. I think that’s is the rub of it. Every family is different. Some families have no screens at all, some have strict limitations and others it’s a complete free for all. Each to their own.
If we want our kids to have a healthy approach to screens then maybe we should all look a bit closer to home. I am seriously guilty of double screening of a night. Twitter in one hand and Game of Thrones on the big telly. Not setting the best example is it, but I bet you all do it as well. The fact is the digital world is an amazing world. It’s changed our way of life for the better in many ways but it has also bought hazards that we must face and accept. As a friend of mine said to me recently, if you want to get your kids off screens, you need to parent. All too often we use the devices as surrogate babysitters, we need to put down our Iphone and start engaging more fully with our offspring. Then perhaps we can stop banging on about too much screen time.