A SMART device is often the first thing we look at in the morning when our alarm goes off and last thing see at night – and it can seem like there is hardly a waking hour in between that is screen free.
Nearly half of kids aged just two to four years old spend time on a tablet device or smart phone, almost half of teens are on devices on weekends for more than the recommended limit of two hours a day*, and more than nine out of ten teenagers own their own device, according to a recent Pulse of Australia survey of parents of kids aged two to 18.
Lack of sleep, being approached by strangers online and cyber bullying are common concerns among parents. And more than three-quarters of parents surveyed were aware that their own digital behaviour rubs off on their children.
“Children are begging us to get off our devices and we need to do better for them,” says psychologist, parenting expert and father-of-six Dr Justin Coulson.
“There is no doubt that parents have problematic screen usage and one of the biggest complaints from children when they are quizzed about this it that their parents are always on their devices.”
Increased screen time has been linked to a reduction of wellbeing, from stress and anxiety, lack of sleep and poorer quality sleep, to lower academic outcomes, less physical activity and eyesight problems, Dr Coulson says.
“Our kids need to be dreaming, not streaming,” he adds. “Evidence also clearly points for increased screen time being associated with poorer social and emotional skills in children as young as five.”
Dr Coulson suggests discussing a family digital media plan − including parents − that sets boundaries, such as devices being left in flight mode at a charging station, not in bedrooms, overnight, no tablets at the dinner table or always looking someone in the eye when they are talking to you.
“I love the idea of screen-free Sunday, or one night a week when you play board games or cards games together as a family,” Dr Coulson adds.
More than half of the parents surveyed said they would like to spend more time doing outdoor activities or talking and sharing opinions, according to the research.
“As hard as it may be, parents, partners and friends can reclaim personal and family time by going screen-free, such as on weekend excursions or a Sunday drive,” says psychologist and social commentator Sabina Read. “Research tells us that car trips can provide a great social connection point, so it’s a worthwhile space and time Aussies should consider for family bonding and play.”
*Australian Government, Department of Health. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Find out more here. Accessed 10 August 2017.
Bringing back family time to weekends.