In this day and age, kids seem to be too hooked on to screens that they get to spend less and less time doing other things kids of the past used to enjoy.
Parents have become too dependent on their screen nannies, perhaps due to the high demands of the changing times.
But this should not be the case if we want to raise healthy children because there are numerous risks associated with too much screen time.
What are some of the most serious consequences of screen dependence on children?
Perhaps one of the most obvious outcomes of screen dependence is the physical effects it has on children. Children who are hooked to screens are more susceptible to later obesity, studies have concluded.
This is because of prolonged periods of inactivity that steal a lot of time and opportunity for exercise.
Just like a person working a desk job, children who are often glued to the screen have little opportunity to get up and burn their calories.
What’s more is that children who are on screens most of the time have more exposure to advertisements that advocate a lot of sugary, processed, and high-cholesterol foods, which are all linked to obesity and other numerous lifestyle health problems.
2. Aggression and violence
Children who are exposed to violent shows or games tend to elicit the same bad behavior in real life. Even seemingly innocent cartoons that make harmful behavior seem amusing or funny can influence children into thinking that hurting others is okay or that it does not cause serious harm or injury to the other person.
In connection to this, it is also agreed that many risky behavior exhibited by children can be linked to watching programs that depict such actions or behaviors.
Children are great copycats and the behavior they display is a mere reflection of everything they see around them. If most of the things they see come from screens, they are at a bigger risk for bad behavior.
3. Sleep disorders, ADHD, and addiction
The possible psychological impact is also seen among children who are heavy screen users. Because screens emit blue light, it tricks the brain that it still is daytime even in the evening because it can actually affect the natural circadian rhythm.
Other behavioral problems possibly arise due to overstimulation brought about by continuous screenplay, and some studies have actually found that the same points in the brain are stimulated with screens as with prohibited drugs.
Now knowing the risks behind abusive use of screens, you might be wondering: “Well, what can my kids do now? They’re awfully bored.”
The good news is that there are actually a ton of things your kids can enjoy without the aid of multimedia. You won’t even need electricity for many of these activities.
Popular activity ideas for parents
1. Maximize your playroom
If you happen to have built a nursery with all the bells and whistles, this is the best time to maximize it. Oftentimes, nurseries are also delegated playrooms with toy boxes, playsets, and possibly even a wooden rocking horse if you try to picture the most ideal-looking nursery in your head.
However, a lot of the things that parents initially buy to entertain and supposedly stimulate their children often end up being mere displays or swept aside. It’s about time your kid gets to enjoy their toys so that you get your money’s worth in purchasing them in the first place.
If you’re afraid of the foreboding mess that playtime could bring, plan ahead with the organizing. Set aside separate boxes for small toys or items that have parts that pull apart. Shelving is a great idea for bigger toys that won’t fit well together in boxes. This can also be a learning opportunity for your child in packing away toys after using them.
The best way for your child to enjoy play is if they do it with you. Engage them in some pretend game like holding tea parties for them and their dolls, building fortresses and playing pirate ship.
Aside from keeping your child busy without the help of a screen, this is a great way to stimulate their imagination and allow some creativity in their daily life. You’ll be surprised at just how much a child is able to improvise once they get the hang of imaginative play.
2. Try their hand at gardening
A great way to keep them busy and productive at the same time is through gardening. It is perfectly fine for children to get down and muddy once in a while, especially if you’re just dealing with plain garden soil.
Just have them wear protective gloves and maybe some boots to shield them from sharp thorns and twigs. A sun hat is also a good idea if you’re under the heat of the sun, but you can also opt to do your gardening with the kids early at dawn if they’re awake or late in the afternoon while the sun is going down so that you won’t have to battle hot weather.
The benefits of gardening for kids are simply amazing. They get to enjoy nature and some fresh air while having fun. They also get to learn about plants and other living creatures that may thrive in your garden like insects and worms.
They also get to learn about taking care of living things and how to handle them with compassion as they marvel at how their plants grow and thrive under their care. Who knows, if your child really develops a deep love for gardening, you might just have a botanist or a biologist in the making.
3) Arts and Crafts
This is a typical activity for many kids at school. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do it too at home to keep them entertained. If you have a little artist in your child, they might enjoy arts and crafts enough to keep them entertained for how many hours without the use of screens.
You don’t have to go all out in purchasing the most expensive art materials for your little one. You can simply start of with some construction paper, a drawing pad, crayons, kid-friendly scissors, pencils, glue, and some cheap water color.
From this, you can determine what medium your kid enjoys the most or is most comfortable with then you can expand his supplies accordingly. If you do step it up, there are kid-sized art supplies that can match up to professional materials like brushes and easels.
4) Good Old Sports
One of the most tried and tested ways to keep kids busy. Your kids can join sports teams at school to keep them busy in their spare time as school sports teams commonly have games even through the Summer. If they are not the type to play in team sports, that doesn’t mean your child can’t engage in some physical activity.
Solo sports like swimming, gymnastics, track, or archery are some popular choices that do not require your kid to be part of a team. These sports also mean that whatever season it is, whether or not they have playmates, they can practice on their own.
Sports also obviously brings about a lot of physical benefits for kids since it gives them a lot of much-needed exercise and produces feel-good hormones which contribute to their overall wellbeing. On top of that, your child develops good self esteem, discipline, teamwork, and social skills too if they happen to be in a team.
5) Bring out the Music in them
Another way to keep them hooked on something other than tablets and cellphones is music. Learning an instrument is pretty impressive for a child and you can start them as early as three years old.
Learning how to play an instrument gives them confidence and some artistic freedom of expression which is great for their mental health.
Music also helps develop their cognitive skills much further as many parents and teachers believe that students who play an instrument do better at school than those who do not.
It can be something as handy as a violin or a ukulele, something big like a trumpet or drums, or something more relatable like the piano or a guitar. There are plenty of schools that teach music so you can check out your child’s school if they have a music program.
Who knows, you might have a prodigy in the making. If not, then at least you have a happy and confident child who knows that he possesses skills through an instrument.
6) Go on a Park Adventure
Parks are a default leisure ground for all ages. There are plenty of activities you can enjoy in a park, depending on what it has to offer.
Bigger parks with its own ponds usually have ducks that little kids surely will enjoy feeding. If not, other smaller birds usually frequent such places since bird feeders are usually abundant there. Just be extra watchful of your kids when around animals that might peck or chase them.
Other activities are picnics on the grass, bird watching, laying under the clouds and trying to identify cloud shapes, biking, running around, playing games, identifying trees, plants, and flowers, and just simply enjoying a clean and gadget-free time with nature in the park’s greenery.
This is also an excellent opportunity to breathe in some fresh and clean air if you’re often cooped up at home or live downtown.
Overall, these are only a few of the hundred different things you can enjoy off-screen with your kids. There are a ton more that you can explore so that you know what your family likes and enjoys doing when taking a breather from the TV or hour phones.
Later on, you’ll notice the many benefits that being screen-free can bring you and your kids, namely..
1) Improved quality time
You communicate more, talk, and listed easily without all the distractions from gadgets. You will also notice a better relationship between family members since everyone is paying attention to what is said rather than must catching key phrases from a conversation, you can actually sit down, face to face, and look eye to eye for a more intimate and meaningful conversation with each other.
This is especially important for kids since they are starved for attention all the time and gadgets seem to keep that from them.
2) Less eye strain
All that staring, and you probably already notice how dry and irritated your eyes are after hours of scrolling through or watching videos. Give your eyes a much-needed break and look at beautiful natural scenery instead.
Children’s eyes are still developing and are susceptible to permanent damage with too much screen use at an early age. This may lead to serious and permanent eye damage that will mean that they will have to use lenses at an early age or need to have procedures done to correct their sight.
3) Explore other interests
You might like other things but you feel like you don’t give them enough time because all the screen time has taken it away. The same holds true for kids too. They might have other skills and talents that they have yet to discover if they are too busy to pursue it.
Giving them a breather from screens allows them to explore other things that might tweak their interests such as the examples written above. This allows them to try new and exciting things and possibly discover gifts that you thought they never had.
4) Much needed brain break
What with all the stimulation that screens bring, the brain can become overwhelmed. Try to give it a much-needed breakthrough nature and through rest.
Many screen-addicted kids get little sleep, and so their developing brains need the rest to keep on growing and learning. Also, studies agree that lesser screen time improves school performance for kids so if your little tyke is having some trouble catching up at school, you might want to consider cutting back his screen time.