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Finding the balance between screen time and green time

Liz Dawson: Accredited Exercise Physiologist

Do you have a love-hate relationship with kids and their screens? At times, there is nothing more convenient than a screen; pick a busy café or a doctor’s wait room and you will see children by the dozen, immersed in a phone or ipad. Most parents feel a twinge of guilt creep in as they hand over the ‘ipad’ to placate or quash boredom and impatience. Well stop right there with the guilt trip, brush the judgemental eyes aside, (cast mostly from the BC screen generation) and think about this. The world is not the same as it was 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago, we now live in a digital age, and as such our children are not the same as generations before. From birth, they’ve received an onslaught of digital interactivity, from that first iphone snap, uploaded to Facebook before you’ve even delivered the placenta, to their debut grab of your phone in a café. And while we might marvel at the digital competencies of children who can barely walk, really it comes as second nature. Children of this generation are simple wired differently and that’s a fact. Their brains have been affected by the sound, light and interactivity of high-tech immersion and as such the process information differently. (Dr Gary Small & Gigi Vorgan iBrain- Surviving the Technological Alterations of the Modern Mind 2008)

So, while Grandma might say; “Back in my day, kids just had to sit there quietly and wait”; you are really not comparing apples with apples. The difficult part of parenting in the ‘digital age’, is finding the balance between screen time and green time, with physical activity on the decline and obesity on the rise, this parental dilemma, is a legitimate reason to have a love-hate relationship with screens.

Although ipads are used across national curriculum, most schools have the firm belief that they should never replace teachers and traditional learning, this same principal belongs to remaining physical. Despite your child’s need to play, interact and learn digitally, equal value should be place on the need for your child to learn about the importance of moving their bodies. My advice is to set some ground rules around ipad time and active time without the two things competing against each other. Like the teachings of ‘good food’ and ‘sometimes food’, dessert should not be the reward for the healthy main course. Rules around when, where and how much screen time is okay, may vary considerably amongst families. But if your child is using an ipad for lengthy periods, you need to consider the possibility of musculoskeletal issues arising from bad posture. Educational institutes, recommend short burst of screen time, broken up by physical activity or a change of scenery. If you notice your child zoning out, eyes all glazey and bodies physically slumped, this is a good sign that the original benefits of the screen have expired and it’s time to change it up. When outside ‘green time’ is not an option, Kids Heart Pilates online program provides the perfect opportunity to break up the screen time with physical activity that is fun, age appropriate and designed to develop gross, fine and cognitive skills. Check it out here.


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