Written by: Carol Vieth (Master Level Practicum Student)
If you are a parent, you probably heard from your child’s pediatrician early on, to limit your child’s screen time. This was a recommendation because of the negative effects that can occur from too much time in front of the screen. There is an abundance of research that can be found that demonstrates how too much screen time can contribute to emotional, social, academic, and mental health problems.
In today’s world, limiting screen time can be a difficult task for parents. Parents are putting smartphones in the hands of their children as young as age 8, making it easier for kids to access social media sites and other online activities. Many school districts have gone to a 1 to 1 device policy on their campuses. In many schools, Kindergarten through third grade students are issued iPads, fourth through eighth graders are issued Chrome books and high schooler students are issued laptops.
When COVID forced schools to go to a virtual platform, students and parents did not have a choice on how they would receive their education. When schools did open back up, many districts gave parents the option for their children to attend classes in person or virtually. Many classrooms became blended classrooms, where students who were in person were able to collaborate with their virtual classmates. Even though their parents chose in person learning, screen time became the norm in the classroom because of the blended learning situation.
There has been a tremendous amount of benefits to computers in the classroom and virtual learning; however, with benefits also come detriments. As an elementary classroom teacher I have seen first hand the negative effects on many students that one can read about in the research about emotional, social, academic and mental health problems that can arise as a result of too much screen / device time. I have seen students’ attention span decrease. I have seen students have a difficult time communicating in person with fellow classmates and teachers. I have seen a decrease in the ability of students to verbally express and regulate their emotions. This is just to name a few.
Now that summer is here there are many activities that parents can involve or encourage their children to participate in that do not involve screens. Last month’s blog, https://ntxcounseling.com/2021/05/13/14-summer-activities-to-strengthen-family-relationships/ written by Kaitlin Cross, M.S., LPC, has many great ideas and suggestions. Additionally, many of the area libraries have summer programs for children and teens. Many include story time as well as puppet shows, magicians, visits from live animals and craft times to name a few. Check out your local library for program dates and times.
Another idea for fun, physical entertainment are the indoor adventure parks that provide indoor ziplines, rock climbing, obstacle courses and rope climbing. There are many around the DFW area. This area is also rich in various museums, zoos, botanical gardens and theatres. These are great to visit as a family, but many of them also provide summer day camps to further enrich a child’s knowledge and experience. Local school districts, as well as churches, provide many fun hands-on camps that can also be educational. Many district high schools also have sports camps for baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and other sports your child may be interested in. These camps are usually for students in grades Kindergarten through eighth grade. The high school student athletes assist the coaches in exchange for service hours that they are collecting for National Honor Society or other high school programs that require service hours to maintain memberships.
There are so many activities available to help parents keep their children physically, socially, and emotionally active in the summer months and plenty of options to help parents reduce their children’s screen time. Sometimes, as parents, we just need a little reminder of where to look for ideas to give our children wonderful experiences that do not involve screens.