The reality is that in this digital age screens are everywhere, particularly now during the Covid-19 pandemic. Children could potentially be spending time looking at a screen from the time they wake up every morning. What can we do to help children better manage their use of screens and create a balance in the use of technology?
Use the Zeeko 5:1 Rule: The 5:1 Rule is one that we have pioneered at Zeeko as a very effective way of helping children to achieve a balance in their use of screens. For every one hour spent using a screen this should be balanced with 5 hours of real-world activity. This means activities that don’t involve screens. A useful tip for parents is to create an offline activity jar. Fill a jar with lollipop sticks with your child’s favorite offline activities written on them, such as ‘DIY crafts’ or ‘bike riding’, at a safe social distance of course. It can be difficult for children to come up with ideas to have to do 5 hours of activities. So, it’s good for parents to help out with some ideas! Once your child has had their hour on screentime, they go to the jar and pick out a lollipop stick and that’s the next activity that they will do.
Start with small steps: At Zeeko we strongly believe that confiscation of digital devices, banning the use of screens or removing screens as a punishment is counterproductive. By ‘banning’ the use of screens it’s likely your child will develop a resentment of you and may take every opportunity to be on screens when you are not around. It is far more effective to sit down together and have an open conversation about the use of screens by everyone in the family. A good way to start to create a healthy balance regarding screens would be to decide that for one day every weekend you all do a family activity that does not involve a screen. This is a small first step towards creating a healthier balance and is manageable and won’t be too overwhelming.
Encourage and promote no screens for at least an hour before bedtime: Screens omit a blue light which effects the melatonin levels in our brains, effectively meaning that screens stimulate our brains. Obviously, this is not a good idea in promoting a restful night’s sleep particularly for children, but adults too. Sleep is crucial to allow children to effectively concentrate, learn and grow. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that for at least one hour before bedtime there should be no screens. Our bodies and minds become used to the routine around bedtime and screens should not be part of this, especially if we want our family to have a good night’s sleep. One strategy to help with a more restful sleep is to invest in a traditional alarm clock as opposed to using the clock on your phone as an alarm. Try leaving your phone downstairs and using the alarm clock instead for a few nights and see what difference it makes to the quality of your sleep!
Make sure to include ‘non screen activities’ every day: At the moment think about playing games with younger children that don’t involve screens for example playing board games and/or things like matching card games. Colouring or drawing can also be a good non screen activity. For older children age appropriate board games or encouraging them to take the time to learn a new skill or a craft is also a good idea.
Be a good role model: This can be a genuine challenge when it comes to the use of screens. Essentially if your child sees you constantly looking at a screen. they are going to see this behaviour as normal and acceptable, even for them. Try where possible to have a balance in your own use of screens. Parents often find it helpful to put their phones on flight mode which can be less distracting. Also try to ensure that you spend quality screen free time with your child on a very regular basis.
Given the current public health emergency happening across the world it is absolutely understandable that parents are concerned about excessive internet use by their children. Hopefully the tips outlined in the course of this blog will be a starting point in helping you to give your child a different perspective on the use of the internet.