Dr Justin Coulson’s newest book, 10 Things Every Parent Should Know, was written “for every parent who has wanted to be better”. Coulson is a parenting expert and the author of 21 Days to a Happier Family and 9 Ways to a Resilient Child. 10 Things Every Parent Should Know is the perfect companion to these editions, offering practical advice and valuable strategies to parents in any situation.
One of the biggest modern parenting conundrums is technology – how often should children be exposed to electronic devices? Read below for an abridged extract of Coulson’s advice regarding screen time and children’s development. To benefit from all of Coulson’s advice, get your own copy of the book.
Are screens really the enemy?
“Screens have created a moral panic among parents. When we talk about devices, phones, tablets or anything else that possesses a screen, judgements are made. We’re ‘good’ parents if we minimise screen time. We are ‘bad’ parents if we allow too much screen time.
Why the panic?
I believe that while the moral panic around screens may be over the top and sensationalised, the concerns about screens and digital media are well founded. Before banning screens completely, let’s consider an important question: what do parents need to know to raise children who have a healthy balance with technology?
We’ll consider two of the three primary areas: wellbeing and physical health.
Increasingly compelling data tells us that screens negatively impact wellbeing. The best evidence from the American Academy of Pediatrics is clear. (And they devoted an entire supplementary section to their journal in late 2017 to highlight the following points.) Keep children away from screens as much as you can – for their own wellbeing.
If they’re under two, they shouldn’t be getting any screen time. And once they are old enough for screens, we want to ensure it’s a healthy digital diet. Not too much digital fairy floss and junk food. Sure, some mindless entertainment is fine here and there, just like some chocolate, chips and fizzy drink is a fun treat. But you don’t give your children that kind of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You give them good, nutritional food – look for the equivalent in games, movies and television shows. Programs that focus on rescuing, exploring and relationships, or age-appropriate documentaries, are obviously healthier than those telling superhero stories, in which problems are solved using violence, for example.
The healthier we are, the happier we are likely to be. Screens restrict and reduce movement. This affects mental and physical health. For children in kindergarten, more than one hour of screen time each day means they’re 52 per cent more likely to be overweight than kids who watch less, and 72 per cent more likely to be obese than kids who watch less. The more they sit, the more they snack. In fact, children eat about 170 calories more per hour of TV watched than they would eat if they weren’t watching TV.
Screens are given the blame for increasing eyesight problems in children. They get tired eyes and are at greater risk of needing glasses. Eye damage is a real and documented risk. The American Optometric Association suggests minimising screen time and sending children outside for the health of their eyes.
Regarding sleep, too many children are streaming instead of dreaming, connected to wifi and watching movies at the expense of sleeping. Increased exposure to screens means it takes longer to get to sleep, and it also means that sleep is of a poorer quality. Sleep is crucial for our brain to function well: during sleep it consolidates memories and is fortified for learning. The brain requires sleep so that it can remove waste products (from working all day), and process input and output. And we all know what lack of sleep does to our kids’ moods.
Reading all that – and acknowledging that we haven’t touched on other areas, such as brain development, the social/relationship domain and the health of the spiritual/soul of the child – it is no wonder that there’s a moral panic over screens!
Getting the balance right is central to using screens well. The unflinching fact is that screens are a part of our lives. We rely on devices for more and more functions. They are in every home, every educational context, every car (!!!) and everywhere else we go. Being alarmist and making screens a moral issue is unhelpful. But we do need to know the risks so that we can identify a healthy and positive way forwards.”
Posted on February 5, 2018 by Larissa
This entry was posted in ABC Books, Health & Personal Development and tagged 10 things every parent should know, advice, Justin Coulson, parent, Parenting advice, psychology, screen time, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.