Screen time and children

A recent survey suggests that many parents find it hard to get their children away from screens.

A recent survey published by children’s charity Action for Children found almost one in four parents struggle to control their child’s access to their phones, laptops and TVs.

The number (23 per cent) of parents who admitted they struggle to control their child’s access to screens is higher than those who admitted struggling to get their children to bed (17.5 per cent), to do their homework (10 per cent) and to take a bath (5 per cent). These findings come on the back of a study by Cambridge University in 2015 which suggests that an extra hour a day of television, internet or computer games in a child’s GCSE year was linked to poorer grades.  

The researchers recorded the activities of more than 800 14-year-olds and when they analysed the results of their GCSEs at 16, they found those who had spent an extra hour a day in front of screens saw a fall in results equivalent to two grades overall. Experts have warned that pupils may arrive to school tired after spending too much time in front of a screen late at night.

To help parents unplug the whole family, Action for Children has developed five top tips. These are:

1.   plan fun activities for the whole family that don’t involve technology;

2.   create a balance between technology use and other activities by creating a weekly schedule on the principle of ‘energy in’ (technology use) equaling an hour of ‘energy out’ (other non-technology related activities);

3.   tap into your own experience and share some of your favourite childhood games with your children;

4.   identify the challenges your children enjoy in the video games they play and replicate them. If for example they like sports games encourage them to play the real deal in the park or go as a family to a local match. If they prefer puzzle type games then organise a family board game night;

5.   practice what your preach and when your children are having screen-free time, turn off your devices too. 

Speaking about the results of the survey, the Managing Director of Operations at Action for Children, Carol Iddon acknowledges the prevalence and importance of technology in our everyday lives but stresses the importance of finding a balance. 

“Technology is an often necessary part of the lives of children and parents alike,” she said. “But it is important to maintain a balance with other activities and quality family time. We know from our extensive work with families that strong relationships with parents build resilience in children. 

“This resilience makes them less susceptible to bullying or abuse outside the home and encourages them to talk to their parents about any fears or concerns. That is not to say that time together has to focus solely on serious talks about stranger danger and similar, in fact one of the best ways to maintain open dialogue with your children about their lives is to have fun with them.

“Not only is this enjoyable for the whole family, but many children are more likely to confide in you in a relaxed, low pressure setting.”

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