If you have a child or teenager in this day and age at some stage you will be faced with the issue of too much “screen time”. That is, of course, your child spending too much time either in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Macquarie University psychologist Wayne Warburton encourages parents to actually play the video games their kids are playing to keep tabs on time spent on the device as well as levels of violence and inappropriate content.
Dr Warburton suggested that time spent engaged in violent video games generates responses in children that are not unlike the effects of those living in violent households or war-torn countries.
‘Brain scanning studies see it (violent video gaming) desensitises responses to violence, you see the world as more hostile, you over-estimate the likelihood of being murdered,” he said.
The statistics are damning. Australian children are spending on average five hours per day with the heads in phones, music videos, games and DVDs. This is all the more reason for parents to take a more than passing interest in what they are watching.
Dr Warburton recommends screen time to be limited to no more that two hours per day with breaks every 30 minutes to minimise prolonged sitting and vision problems. Additionally there should be no screen time for two hours before bed as the blue light emitted interrupts the sleep hormone melatonin.
Dr Warbuton shares 10 Tips for Healthy Game Play For Children.
- Aim for a healthy media diet in 3 areas: Moderate time (1-2 hours per day), Content (less violence, more education), Age appropriateness.
- Elimate video games in the bedroom – this simple rule will lessen the need for you to moderate time.
- Encourage physical time over sitting time – times have changed since we were kids. The challenge parents face now is to make the physical activity as much fun as the sedentary.
- The “break every 30 minute” rule – the problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle are only now becoming clear. Five minutes of physical activity every 30 minutes is a help.
- Create a good, safe playing technique that involves good posture and avoidance of repetitive movements.
- Know what games your children are playing and monitor their use. Studies show that increased parent monitoring of screen reduces time, violence, aggression and increases sleep time, pro-social behaviour and school performance.
- Hard and fast rules around use – make the rules and don’t yield.
- Model your use of devices – If you’re on your screen for four hours and want your child to only be on for two, how is that fair? Show them how it’s done.
- No screen time before bed – turn off within two hours before bed to ensure sleep hormones aren’t interrupted.
- Participate in your child’s games – if your child is frightened by content or disturbed by anti-social behaviour, play with them and talk through what they are witnessing. This will lessen the impact and assist them with greater understanding.