Teens stuck at home are getting more screen time than ever

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Is lockdown making your teen screen addicted?
Most teenagers spend almost all of their waking hours behind a screen. Whether they’re texting on their smartphones, or they’re watching videos on their laptops, their electronics use can easily get out of control. If your child says “everyone is doing it,” he or she may be correct. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious.

A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8- to 18-year-old children devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media each day.
The total time is the equivalent of more than 53 hours per week or 2770 hours each year.

Now too much screen time has been linked to a variety of problems. Excessive electronic use raises the risk of obesity, interferes with social activities and family time, and takes a toll on a teen’s mental health.

In contrast, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that parental monitoring of a child’s media use can have protective benefits on his academic, social, and physical outcome. Taking the time to strategize on how to set limits is very worth your time (and the resistance you will get) as a parent.
Every child is different, and one method may work better for one child than another. So here I’m suggesting some guidelines

One of the ways in which screen time has changed dramatically in recent years is that it’s often felt to be more of a right than a privilege. If you grew up watching the four channels available, you may have felt fortunate to watch a cartoon on Saturday morning. The combination of having just about anything available on a screen 24/7 places more pressure on parents to say when a child can and cannot have screen time.

Make it clear that screen time is a privilege that needs to be earned. At first, this may be difficult. But the lessons from learning to delay the gratification of screen time and control her impulses will stay with your child for a long time.

Also, make it clear that the privilege of screen time can be taken away at any time. Teach your teen to do homework and chores first, before he turns on the TV or plays on the computer.

Telling your teen to shut off his electronics while you’re sitting in front of the TV isn’t likely to be effective. Teens will learn more from what you do than what you say. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.

Most teens think they’re pretty good at multitasking. They try to text message while doing their homework or use social media while talking on the phone. If your child has a phone, you’re probably all too familiar with their justifications for doing so.

Discourage your teen from doing two things at once and discuss how multitasking actually interferes with productivity.

Most teens, especially younger teens, aren’t mature enough to handle free reign with their electronics. Establish rules that will keep your teen safe and help your teen make good choices with video games, cell phones, TVs, and computers.

Encourage your teen to get some exercise. Going for a walk, playing a game of catch, or even doing some gardening work can ensure your teen will get the physical activity she or he needs. Think of activities you can enjoy as a family so it seems less like exercising.

Have frequent conversations about various aspects of media. Discuss how advertisements often try to convince young people that certain products will make them more attractive or more popular. Discuss the dangers of too much violence exposure and help them learn how to be an informed viewer.

Shut off your TV during mealtimes and don’t allow text messaging or web surfing while you’re eating. Don’t let screens cheat your family out of this priceless time.

Every once in awhile it can be helpful to have a screen-free day. You might even consider a longer digital detox—like a day vacation from electronics twice a month. It’s a great way to ensure that everyone still has plenty of activities that don’t involve electronics.

Take a moment and think of some of the activities you enjoyed growing up and how it would be different today. Don’t let your child miss out on those opportunities.

Some things a child can do instead of looking at a screen include:

Communicate with parents and siblings
Socialize with friends
Read books
Be creative and use her imagination
Play outside and enjoy nature
Do homework
Carry out family chores
Get enough rest

Limiting screen time is all well and good as long as parents work together. Studies have found that interparent conflict (conflict between parents) in setting these limits is associated with a child having more conflict in his or her relationships. It may also result in greater exposure to media violence.Before setting media limits with your child make sure you work together with your partner so you can present these rules as a united team. For parents who aren’t together, this can be more difficult. If this remains a problem, it might be helpful to sit down with a third party such as a therapist to look at ways in which you can compromise so that your child has her screen time limited but without making it an area of contention between parents.

It’s quite clear that excessive screen time can be damaging to our children academically and from both a physical and psychological standpoint. At the same time, screen time is causing our children to miss out on many activities which are important in nurturing the family and friendships.

Try some of the strategies listed here to reduce your child’s screen time. If you need something positive to counteract the resistance you will get from your child, keep track of the activities which replace screen time. You may be pleasantly surprised. Electronics and screens aren’t going away anytime in the near future, and there are positive aspects to their use as well.

As parents or mentors , we can teach our children to use these screens as an asset which is a privilege. rather than a right that is detrimental.

Mohsina Mirza

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