Think back to summers when you were a kid. You might recall getting up, doing a few chores and then heading outside to play, only taking a break for lunch. Your mom or dad’s call for dinner was probably met with complaints about coming inside.
In an informal survey of adults about their childhood summer memories, people recalled catching fireflies, climbing trees, fishing and playing outside with friends. They also mentioned riding bikes, running through the sprinkler and lots of other activities. As they thought about their response, they usually smiled and laughed as the memories replayed in their mind.
Most would agree that times have dramatically changed, but not necessarily for the better.
Instead of spending time playing outside, various studies indicate many children will get up and head straight to some type of screen. In fact, 8- to 10-year-olds spend on average between five and seven hours playing games, watching movies or television. For teens, this number increases. This is a stark contrast to the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that children 10 and older spend no more than two hours a day watching a screen.
Too much screen time can increase a child's risk of having trouble sleeping at night, experiencing attention issues and developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that children eat more unhealthy food while watching screens, which can lead to weight gain.
While many parents grow weary of this battle, it is definitely one worth fighting.
When children move away from screens and interact with others, it helps them develop communication skills. They also learn how to get along with others and problem-solve when there is disagreement over a kickball game score. Play helps build a child’s imagination and enhances their ability to entertain themselves.
So, here’s a challenge: Unplug from the screens and encourage your kids to spend their time in other ways.
Initially, you will undoubtedly get the usual push-back, but stand your ground. Know that you are setting the stage for your children to create some great memories. If they say they are bored, offer them some ways to work around the house. They'll probably find something to do in order to avoid chores - and it teaches your child to entertain themselves.
The American Academy of Pediatrics actually says that doing nothing at all is better than staring at a screen. For example, car rides without DVDs allow a child to look at their surroundings and let their imagination run wild.
While unplugging might not be the most convenient thing to do, see it as intentional preparation for launching your child. Moving away from screens gives them the chance to learn necessary skills to help them navigate through life. Who’s up for the challenge?