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Help! My kids have too much screen time!

I have a confession to make. I spend a lot of time on my phone and computer screen myself. Actually, I spend more hours on my phone than the average adult. What is too much screen time for people our age? And what's the average? In the US, statistics show that an average adult uses about 3.75 hours of screen time a day. In the UK, it's about 3.5 hours. In the Philippines, it's around 4.25 hours. I'm stepping towards the 4.5 to 5-hour mark. Should I be ashamed about it? I'm not sure. I have mixed feelings, really. My phone is my source of pretty much everything: news, information and entertainment. I hardly even watch local tv because in my free time unless I'm reading on my Ebook (which is also, screen time). I'm either watching Youtube videos or enjoying a Netflix film on my phone. And then of course, I have my blog and my YouTube channel too. So meron din naman po akong magandang reason di po ba? (I have a good reason, right?). Hehe.

My sad truth

Kidding aside though, I am struggling to bring my kids back to precovid times when the use of their digital devices were restricted to weekends only for a maximum of 4 hours. During those pre-lockdown days, my kids play online apps for a couple of hours, or switch to computer games and then sometimes they go to their Squla account (an online educational platform designed for Dutch grade school students). Other times, they would have playdates with classmates or neighborhood friends out in the playground or in each others' homes. But when covid-19 hit and the world stopped in 2020 and everybody stayed indoors, our home, just like most of the rest of the modern world, resorted to computer games, Youtube videos, and Netflix.

The. whole. day.

Fast forward to October 2021, more than a year after this global crisis started, and even though it seems that we are now getting back to some normalcy after the presence of vaccines, my boys continue to spend more on screen time than the average that's recommended. What is the recommended screen time for children anyway? According to the Academy of American Pediatrics, an average of 2 hours a day for children and teens are recommended. However, in reality, kids nowadays spend about 4 to 6 hours a day. And during the lockdown, they spent just as much more. My boys probably were around the same ballpark too.

Our strategy

So my husband and I have now come up with a strategy at home. We stick to a strict screen time of 4 hours on the weekends and one hour max on Fridays after school. We'll also encourage our kids to play outside the house, within our neighbourhood. We got them GPS watches so they could be given a bit more freedom to go farther than our small playground at the end of our street. We also invested in a few board games at home which have a dual purpose really… to keep kids away from their screens and also allow us to spend more family time together. A few card games wouldn't hurt either, and so we taught our kids some Filipino card games even. 

As parents, we all can think of many ways and diversions for our children to keep them away from too much screen time at home. It all depends on your dynamics at home and your lifestyle. Our challenge at home is that both of us, my husband and I, are almost always with our computers or phones. My husband works in IT. I run a blog and a Youtube channel. So for our family, we hope to make this new set up work to try and take better control of our kids' exposure to tv and other devices.

By the way, did you know that you can actually control the hours spent by your kids on their Ipads? Learn how to do it by clicking on the link here.  

Fingers crossed

So we hope that our new plan will help us take better control and regulate our kids' screen time at home. I certainly know it's good for the health and well being of our kids and it's best for our family dynamics at home too. My husband and I have to take part in reaching our goal. As parents, we need to set ourselves as role models to our children, so we also need to put some effort in minimising our time spent on our devices ourselves. The key to all of this would be discipline of course. ahhh! But that's another story to tell! hehehe.

Do you also struggle with the same issue at home? And do circumstances just make it a bit more difficult for you to control your kids' screen time and online gaming? Here's a great tip by Unicef ​​on how to keep your child safe online while still stuck at home. It's all a learning process in this day and age of internet and social media and this pandemic isn't really helping much, isn't it? But let's do our best to make the most of it and help our kids thrive and be the best that they can be, happy and most especially, healthy!

Sources and related articles online:

PH remains top in social media, internet.  

How to keep your child safe online while stuck at home during covid-19 outbreak

Pew Research Center: Parenting children in the age of screens.

Association between digital screen time and nearsightedness .

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