How much screen time do our kids need


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

HoW MuCh SCrEeN TiMe Do OuR KiDs NeEd?


Tuesday 10th Feb was the 4th time speaking on the parenting spot for Radio ABC South West.

What I have written here in answer to ABC's questions is more extensive than what I shared on air.

Do I let my kids watch as much TV as they want?

At the moment-No. (But in the past I have let them watch things that have given them nightmares and enabled them to not want to do their homework or jobs.)

School has started, so, no tv before or after school on school nights. Homework, sport , dance and chores must be completed  before going out to play with friends.   
We save dvd's or tv for the weekends, but  only after chores are done.
While the kids are at school my 24yr old  daughter does have theTV on in the background while she feeds her baby and rocks her to sleep.The rocking chair is in the lounge so it is quite relaxing to just rock and watch the TV  with the sound on low. 

During the holidays I  buy weekly DVDs for the children to watch as an indulgent cheap form of entertainment. I also take the children to the movies at least once during the holidays . I like the big screen at the cinema and it is a form of entertainment that we can enjoy together."

When did I let my kids start watching TV or play computer games?

When my first 3 children were young  I had transformed my dining room into a learning centre. Every morning I would teach my children,  puzzle work, drawing, abc's, counting, story time,  songs and then I would  walk them to the river to feed ducks. It was routine. 

But once my eldest boy started school, I let him and the younger children watch tv after school. This gave me time to put dinner on, bring in washing and listen to him read his  homework until husband came home. 

But when we visited the inlaws the TV was on 24/7 and the children often fell asleep watching TV next to the heater.

One day I became  a single mother of 5 children under the age of 7 and  TV was a godsend. I was over tired, stressed and and in need of a break. Once I  instructed my 7 year old son to look after the children, locked myself in my room, curled up into foetal position and let the 5 kids watch tv and eat whatever food they could find in the fridge and pantry. I am sure they went over the 2 hour screen time way back then.

Do I think the two-hour a day screen time rule is realistic? What about homework on computers?

For my 5 year old, under 2 hours of screen time is realistic. She does not need the computer for homework, we do not have the TV  on during school term and she does not own a phone or an iPad. She will use Tonys phone for games and in the weekends she may spend an hour on FRIV playing games.

For the 8 yr old 2 hours per day of screen time is unrealistic  as her 2 hours per day is used at school. Her school requires her to own an iPad and she uses it for collaborative reading and numeracy as well as recording and presenting information. When her homework and chores are done she is able to play games on Tonys phone for about half an hour or more before going to bed. She also likes to edit photos on my phone and change my screen saver. 

My 13 year old, has a phone which dominates her free time. She texts, listens to music and instagrams' her friends on it. I have just set a rule where she gives me her phone at 8pm. This is so she will not sleep with her phone and stay up til midnight. It is important for her to wake up on time to get ready for school. 

She does not use the computer at school at the moment and has not required the computer for homework yet so 2 hours of screen time for her is realistic. 

My husband is constantly browsing his phone and I can easily exceed 2 hours of screen time when I am writing on my laptop, downloading photos or checking FB or Instagram. So I think 2 hours is unrealistic for me if I am producing work.

At the end of the day it boils down to self discipline and assessing what the screen time is being used for.

Have I ever taken drastic action over TV or computer games?

Yes, once we threw our TV away. And then a week later brought a new one. Over the years we have banned the TV or banned certain programs. We have banned computer usage unless it was for homework. We have used an egg timer to control computer time and we have checked phones and computers for  sexual text messages or images. We have banned certain music being downloaded and we have delayed purchasing the iPad and we never ever brought a playstation. We have changed passwords on the computers and not brought credit for the children's phones. That was always their responsibility. (Altho I did buy my 13 yr old some starter credit.)

I have set a rule that we don't view any movies over M rating. 

Once my teenagers even checked mine and Tonys phones for any 'adult,' messages we may have sent to each other. 

It is all about accountability.

What’s my advice for other parents?

Be aware of the content your children are watching and playing on computers and phones. Be aware of who their friends are on Instagram, FB and at school. 

Involve your children in sport or physical activity at least 3 times a week for an hour each time. Encourage them to be creative, read books, make music, write and complete homework and tasks before screen time.

If the children work at the computer try and purchase an ergonomic chair if you can afford it. Encourage the use of screen time to be used as a learning tool, or a creative tool, not just a 'baby sitter,' that keeps the children physically weak or unengaged in the real world.

I posted a question on my Facebook about this screen time topic and these are the responses I received.

How do you limit your childs screen time? Do your children exceed the recommended 2 hour per day limit of computer, tv, gaming, iPad and phone use?

Anthea Huntly Wairua likes this.
1 share
Kelly Murphy I hand over the responsibility to them. We agree on one hour each day and they choose however they want to use their time. TV, Game etc. we set the oven timer. Saves lots of arguments.
Ness Rodda We do our game time in the mornings before school. It motivates them to get up and ready so quickly! They play after breakfast til it's time to go. Then afternoons are screen free - no TV just homework and playing outside etc... We love this because it's a nice calm time for us in the mornings and doesn't waste the arvo. Might not work for everyone but it's how our family rolls