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Screen Time vs Green Time

It never ceases to amaze me just how much ‘stuff’ kids actually have these days. Like most modern homes, we have a family room that has that scary area around the box. (Now there’s an old term – for anyone under thirty, in my era that meant the TV). Anyway, at my place this corner of the room would give the local electrical retailer a run for its money. I often refer to it as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ where my hard earned money mysteriously disappears every Christmas with the purchase of the next ‘big thing’.

You know what I’m talking about. As well as the latest and greatest computers, tablets and smart phones there’s the X box, PlayStation: one, two, three and four of course. Then there’s the Wii (That meant something different in my day as well by the way). A plethora of various box-shaped devices bound together by a tangled spaghetti of leads, plugs and carpet dust. One thing all of these gadgets have in common is a screen and the one thing that all kids have in common is an almost hypnotic attraction to want to look at them – screen time 24/7 if they could.

Consequently there is a new battleground across our nation. Battle-weary parents trying to get their children up and out of the house sometimes feel they are losing the war on creating the right balance when it comes to screen time and green time. It’s a tough fight but an important one. Let’s face it. To a ten year old the latest game can look a lot more appealing than a “boring walk in the park” but we also know that ice-cream may taste better than veggies but our job as parents is to make sure our kids get the healthy stuff into them.

Some ice cream – lots of veggies.

Some screen time – lots of park.

It’s that simple.

The Australian Dept of Health guidelines:

Screen Time and Minecraft

Activity recommendations

  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years) and pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years) should be physically active every day for at least three hours, spread throughout the day.
  • Children aged 5–12 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.

Screen time recommendations

  • Children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (screen time = DVDs, computer and other electronic games).
  • Children 2 to 5 years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media (screen time = DVDs, computer and other electronic games) should be limited to less than one hour per day.
  • Children 5 to 12 years of age – limit use of electronic media for entertainment (screen time = television, seated electronic games and computer use) to no more than two hours a day. Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

Source: www.health.gov.au

There is no denying that too much screen time is no good for our children so here are a few of my tips on how to win a battle or two and maybe even the war…

Have clear rules of engagement

Set clear (age appropriate) boundaries and make sure both parents are clear and agree on these. There is so much power in working together in organised unity.

Bomb the Beaches

Start really young and don’t wait until they hit the tween or teen years to start thinking about responsible screen time. Create the culture you want for your home and family from the second they come home from the hospital

A bit of Intelligence goes a long way

Try to keep up with whatever the latest game, app or website is so you know if it is appropriate for your aged child. If they use a computer word you don’t understand just pretend you know it and then go and Google it. That’s what I do.

Lead from the front

Lead by example. It’s not rocket-science.  If you get excited about climbing a tree so will your little one. Remember they are always watching you. You are there greatest hero (well at least in the younger years.)

Never, never, never give up

Churchill got it right! When it comes to children we know how persistent they can be. Give them a bit of their own medicine and be persistent back. Don’t give in and stick to your guns.

So good luck troops. Keep fighting the good fight. Your kids are worth it.

This article was published in Issue 3 of our print magazine, April/May 2014.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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