With the possible physical and mental impact of screens, you may be thinking that the best option is to cut them out of the picture altogether. Knowing that’s NEVER going to happen, here are some helpful tips to share with patients concerned with the effects of excessive screen time.
A term probably overused when it comes to lifestyle modifications, but undoubtedly important when it comes to time spent on digital devices. Setting limitations can be difficult, especially if children, teens, adults, etc. are used to freely scrolling on their devices without restriction. Beginning a schedule for screen time is best when implemented young, think 3-5 years old.
The most important limit to set might be the limit before bed. Sleep is so important to overall health, and screens have been linked to less and worse sleep. Turning off the devices 2 hours before bed can have a positive impact on the amount and the quality of sleep patients get. For older children and teens with their own devices, parents can use screen-time-tracking and parental-control apps that can help monitor and limit what their kids have access to and for how long. A few apps include:
Other limits that can be set include no screens until homework is completed, until rooms are clean, until chores are done, etc. For adults, no screens until dinner is cooked and eaten, until laundry is complete, until the floors are swept, etc. For children ages 2-5, it is recommended they get no more than an hour of screen time per day.
Allow for Binging
While moderation is the best way to tackle the screen time dilemma, some sites suggest allowing at least 1 binge day where the schedule goes out the window. The key is for patients to have planned activities to help distract themselves or their kids from technology. Encourage patients to brainstorm a list of things to do so they don’t have to turn to screens.
Having planned events work as great screen-time distractions. Many experts stress the importance of children, families, and people in general getting involved in some kind of activity. Whether it’s a religion, sports, or hobbies, being in a group setting or dedicated to an activity helps to fill time usually given to screens and build social skills and relationships that may be damaged due to excessive screen time.
Making time for family can also be a great way to fill screenless time and help reduce the mental impact of digital devices. Suggest parents schedule screen-free playdates or “old school” family game nights with board games or cards. During the evening hours before bed, parents and children can read books together or parents can tell stories.
These may seem like simple suggestions, but as with any lifestyle change, it takes time and discipline. Patients must understand that improvements will not be immediate, and they may not even notice the differences. It’s important to stick to these modifications for the benefit of mind, body, spirit, and most importantly, eyes!
- Wahi G, Parkin PC, Beyene J, Uleryk EM, Birken CS. Effectiveness of Interventions Aimed at Reducing Screen Time in Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165(11):979–986. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.122
- Twenge, Jean. “New Findings Add Twist to Screen Time Limit Debate.” Medical Xpress, Science X Network, 6 Nov. 2018, medicalxpress.com/news/2018-11-screen-limit-debate.html.
- Gagne, Claire. “4 Parent-Tested Systems You Can Use to Limit Screen Time.” Today’s Parent, Rogers Media, 4 June 2018, todaysparent.com/family/parenting/parent-tested-systems-you-can-use-to-limit-screen-time/.