Shocking new research says that today’s kids spend 5 to 7 hours each day in front of a screen, whether it is watching television, playing video games, or surfing the web. Over the holidays, screen time only increases as kids have long, cold days ahead of them and parents become desperate for ways to keep them occupied.
“Screen time in this country has become a huge problem,” says Karl Volkman, tech expert and CTO of SRV Network, Inc. “Even traditional holidays activities have become overwhelmed by screen use—kids watch videos in the car while traveling to see Grandma, or they play with the iPad during Christmas recitals, or they play video games instead of baking cookies and wrapping gifts and getting in the Christmas spirit.”
“Parents should limit TV viewing and the use of computers and similar devices to no more than 1.5 hours a day and only if the child is older than four years of age. Moreover, paediatricians should Inform parents about the general risk that mass media use poses to their children’s cognitive and physical development,” said senior author Dr. Adamos Hadjipanayis, of the European Academy of Paediatrics.
Not only is this bad for their health and their brain development, it can also come with risks from online predators (1 in 7 kids will be solicited by predators online). Here, Karl Volkman outlines his “Holiday Screen Time Rules” to help kids stay active and stay safe…all while allowing every member of the family to enjoy the holidays:
1) Make screen time a reward, not a right: Put a glass jar on the kitchen counter, as well as a sack of marbles. For every good deed your child does (finishing his chores, donating a nickel to the Salvation Army bucket, etc.), he can earn a marble. “Make one marble worth 10 minutes of screen time,” says Volkman. “Kids will love to see the jar fill up, and they will be hesitant to ‘spend’ too many marbles at once.”
2) Make hard and fast rules about screen time. “For example,” says Volkman, “No screen time at the dinner table or no screen time during holiday celebrations. I hate seeing kids using their devices instead of connecting with their family—you don’t want your child zoning out with their tablet when they should be enjoying family time with grandparents or playing with their cousins in the snow. Tell your kids when you are nearing your destination so that they have fair warning to power down and put their phones away before it’s time to get out of the car and explore.”
3) Be wise about screen time. “Not all screen time is created equal,” says the tech expert. “There are many educational games and shows that can benefit your child. Consider games like Fish School, Dinosaur Park Math, Balloony Word, or Stack the States. The popular game Minecraft actually has some great educational appeal too—it helps kids work on spatial reasoning. When choosing television shows, pick shows like Blaze and the Monster Machines over shows like Paw Patrol—the former teaches math, geometry and engineering.”
4) Be vigilant about safety. “Beware of apps like Omegle which allows kids to interact with strangers online. They think they are talking to other kids, but anyone can pose as a child and trick your kids into revealing personal info.”
5) Beware of your own screen time. “A new study showed that 25% of children’s accidents or near-accidents occurred at a time when their parents were on their phones or other devices. If you are constantly engrossed in your device, your kids are at risk—not to mention, monkey see, monkey do. You need to be active and off your phone in order to show your kids that there is more to life than an internet connection.”