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But they like it

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

While presenting a program on children and screens recently, and for what seems like the hundreth time, parents told me that they have a difficult time restricting their children’s use of screens because “they like it”.  I know it can be difficult to tell your children “no” when it causes so much disappointment, especially if they carry on about it.  In truth, you are not doing your children any favor by giving them everything they want.

Children need boundaries, especially when it comes to time with screens (smart phones, tablets, computers, TV, etc.).  There are very few things in this world that impact our health and children’s development as much as screens and technology; and not necessarily in a good way.  If you think of the acronym P.I.E.S. you can see all areas of development: physical, intellectual, emotional and social.  For both adults and children, time with screens has a negative impact on all of these areas if it is out of balance with more beneficial activities.  Here are some ways in which screens impact each domain of development and health:

  • Physical – Screens are watched in a sedentary manner and have been connected to decreased physical activity and increased obesity.
  • Intellectual – Screens are passive; therefore children become passive learners rather than curious, active learners and thinkers. Research shows that as screen usage increases, academic performance decreases.
  • Emotional – Since the advent of social media, we are seeing higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide, not to mention general unhappiness.
  • Social – With more screen use, we have less face to face interaction, leading to language delays in young children and a decrease in the development of social skills and ability to read body language.

Screens, much like junk food, are fine in moderation but you wouldn’t want a steady diet of it.  If all you ate were cookies and ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you would miss out on all the more nutritious foods our bodies need to be healthy such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  So even though your kids’ might like cookies and ice cream, I’m sure you are serving them well balanced meals, at least most of the time.  Please do the same with their free time.  Kids benefit from being outdoors, reading, interacting in-person with other people, sleeping, and playing (using screens is not play).  Unfortunately, many of these important and “nutritious” activities have been replaced by “junk food”, aka screen time.

Even though screens are easy, everywhere, and your children like them, please be thoughtful in your and your children’s use of them.  The recommendation for screen use is no more than 1-2 hours of entertainment media per day.  Most children and many adults exceed that time.  There are now systems in place to track your usage on phones, tablets, etc.  Use them and then develop a plan to get your or your child’s use down to the recommended hours daily and start enjoying a more balanced life.

For more information on screens, read my other blogs which are archived under “Smart phones, computers, and tablets, Oh My!” on blogs.cornell.edu/ccesuffolkfhw

Also look for my podcast under Parenting Tips on soundcloud.com or iTunes

Or visit our website: http://ccesuffolk.org/family-health-and-wellness/human-development/parenting-tips

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at kkr5@cornell.edu.

 

 

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