Remember the days when the sounds of summer included children laughing in the yard and racing down the street on their bicycles? These days, smartphone text alerts, FaceTime chatter, and video game blasts have taken over. Beyond causing a switch from an activity-filled day to one spent stuck on the couch, heavy use of electronic media can have other detrimental effects. For starters, kids are suffering from sore necks, shoulders, backs, fingers, and wrists from bending over and texting. Too much screen time has also been connected with obesity and eye strain. Less sleep and sleep disturbance are some other issues, leading to problems with mood and immunity. In fact, a small screen brought into bed may be even worse than a TV across the bedroom. Laptops, phones and game consoles emit light in the blue spectrum, which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. The closer these devices are to our eyes, the more likely the blue light is reaching the eyes and affecting sleep. Plus, small screens often require interaction, increasing the alertness of your children at a time when you want them to be winding down.
- When kids are home from school in the summer months—many with an abundance of free time —it can be difficult for parents to place limits on screen time. To motivate kids (and yourself, if needed) to put down their phones and computers this summer, here are some tips to try:
- Encourage kids to try new activities, such as cooking and yoga.
- Have a no-screen rule during mealtime.
- Keep a basket outside your kid’s bedroom door for electronics—they go in one hour before bedtime each night.
- Challenge kids to spend as much time being active each day as they do in front of a screen.