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Is your Child a TV or 'Screen Time' Addict?

Do you sometimes wonder if your children are becoming screen addicts? Do they watch hours of TV, no matter what’s on? Are they always on their phones or other devices? Are you worried that they are spending less time with friends or in physical activity? Many parents today are concerned about the amount of screen time their child consumes every day. Should you be worried?

The short answer is yes, you are right to be worried. There can be a lot of valuable education and good entertainment on TV and in some apps that kids use. However, excessive and uncontrolled screen time can be harmful, fostering passivity and physical inactivity in children. This can cause children to gain weight, reduce time spent on learning and social activities and exposes children to violence and other unhelpful viewing.

Screen time is addictive and like any habit it can take time to break it. Your involvement is critical in helping your child. Sit down and have a chat with them and discuss your concerns. Make an agreement with them about the amount of screen time they can have in a day; which programmes they can watch and which games they can play. You can vary this at weekends or, if you have more than one child, perhaps consider drawing up a schedule so they each get to watch the programmes they like but have equal but limited access to the TV and devices. This can also prevent a lot of arguments among siblings.

Don’t focus on “No screen time”, help your child identify other activities they can do instead. Some ideas are sports, meeting friends, reading, etc. The key is help your child build new helpful habits and not to be simply dependent on TV and digital devices. If you want to be successful, you have to be prepared to model this good behaviour. Be prepared to turn off all digital devices during mealtimes including putting away your own phone. Invite conversation with questions about their day.

Also, get involved in healthy activities yourself with your child. You might arrange to go swimming together or play a game of tennis. Pick something healthy that your child likes to do and try to encourage this good habit by being there with them, using the time as an opportunity to connect with them. You have to remember to be patient, it can take time to break a habit and to learn a new one.

Encourage your child with any small positive steps they make, but also be prepared to enforce limited screen time rules (insisting your child keeps to the agreed times).

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