Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Slave to the screen? Recognise the tell-tale signs and know what you can do about it

It's World Television Day today… There’s no denying the fact that we all spend far more time staring at screens (and not just tv screens, but desktops, tablets, phones, and laptops too) than we ever used to; or that our children are growing up more reliant on screens than we would want them to be. It’s not just at home, either. Much of their school work is now completed online too.

Technology does have its benefits. However, as individuals we all need to take care than we are not only aware of exactly how much time we spend interacting with screens, but also take the necessary steps to minimise any effects that excessive screen time has on our health, and our emotional wellbeing.

There are definitely ways to protect our brain from too much stimulation - including spending more time outside and establishing a healthy sleep routine - this article from Psychology Today looks at them in more detail.

But before we do that, it’s important that we are able to recognise the tell-tale signs that indicate when our screen time is becoming excessive. Common signs of overstimulation include:

  • Irritability
  • Inability to relax
  • Lack of organisation
  • Reluctance to empathise with others

There’s a name for regular over-use of devices – it’s called electronic screen syndrome. This article from Psychology Today takes a closer look at the effects that regular over use of devices can have on the brain.

Overcoming over-reliance

There’s only one way to overcome the effects of too much screen-time and that’s by cutting down the amount of time you spend on devices. It’s hard to self-regulate. It’s about putting aside a certain amount of time each day when you will turn away from your screen and give your brain a rest from the stimulation. Set a time limit – and stick to it. It will be hard at first, but distraction helps to break the habits you have. Make sure that you make plans for what you will do with the time when you’re not looking at a screen.

These screen restrictions apply to our children too. As parents, we may not notice the positive effect of restricting screen time right away, but over time it will result in a variety of health and wellbeing benefits (such as better sleep habits, improved performance at school and increased desire to interact with friends and family). Remember, we cannot expect our children to do this for themselves, it is our job to guide and help them to develop a better understanding of the benefits of less screen time.

There are many things we can do that will help. Here’s a few tips:

  • Remove the TV and devices from your child's bedroom. 
  • Don’t have the TV on watching during meals or homework. 
  • Don’t eat while watching TV or using a computer. 
  • Turn on the radio for background noise. 
  • Make sure the device-free times are observed by all the family 

For more information about how to help your kids break away from the box, have a look at this previous blog post:

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