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Posts Tagged ‘digital wellness’

a young child using a laptop

Raising children in this ever-changing digital world can be a challenge. Some articles warn of the dangers of screens, while others urge us to help our kids keep up with technology. Caregivers are often actively encouraging these forms of passive entertainment, and electronic devices are always available as babysitters. Some factors for a child’s excess screen time could be the need for the caregiver to address everyday household activities or an exhausted caretaker who simply needs a break.

Too much screen time can have negative effects on children regardless of the device. So before turning that device over to your child, there are some things that you should consider first. According to Mayo Clinic, too much screen time can have unhealthy effects as a child grows and has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Attention deficit
  • Cognitive delays
  • Impaired learning
  • Violence

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages media use by children younger than 24 months. Video chatting with family and friends is an exception which is considered quality time interacting with others. Children between ages 2 and 5 should be limited to one hour or less a day of quality and educational programming. The following is suggested to ensure safe and quality screen time:

  • Do your homework: Research games and apps before getting them for your child. Search for games and apps that educators and doctors suggest. Organizations such as “Common Sense Media” can help you determine what is appropriate.
  • Always be present: Be with young children during screen time and interact with them.  Discuss what you are watching with your child.  
  • Schedule plenty of non-screen playtime:  Family meals and bedtimes are important times to put the screens away and interact with your child. Preschoolers learn by physically interacting with others and their surroundings.
  • Discourage screen use in your child’s bedroom or at bedtime: Screen use in the hour before bed can stimulate your child. The blue light from televisions, computers, tablets and phones might suppress melatonin levels and delay sleepiness.

You can help ensure a safe and healthy digital atmosphere by developing household rules. As your child ages, you will need to review and adjust the rules by deciding how much media your child should use each day and what is age appropriate.

a young child using a smart phone

As caregivers of young children, it can be hard to maintain a healthy family balance and keep up in these demanding times. Even elementary school-aged children have been completing school work online and participating in Zoom sessions, which has most likely increased their usual screen time. Now that the school year is ending, this could be a great transition opportunity to set device and screen time rules for the summer months.

Many of us can fall short when it comes sticking to device rules. Managing the use of screens and media will be an ongoing challenge as your child grows. You might have a rough day, week or even month, and it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Today is always a good day to try again.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County and Alonna Hoffman, Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development Program Assistant, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Mayo Clinic. (June 20, 2019) Screen time and children: How to guide your child. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/screen-time/art-20047952

American Academy of Pediatrics. (November 2016) Media and young minds. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162591

Common Sense Media https://www.commonsense.org/

Photo credits

https://pixabay.com/photos/boy-mobile-phone-addiction-phone-3360415/

https://pixabay.com/photos/baby-boy-child-childhood-computer-84626/

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A person using a laptop with a smart phone within reach

If there has ever been a time when we have realized the communication opportunities and flexibility that online platforms can provide, it is now. Many of us who are working from home are now using technology in ways we would never have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago. For some, telehealth visits have replaced traveling to see doctors and specialists in their offices. And many have been keeping in touch with friends and family using mobile phones or tablets. 

But even with all the productivity while staying at home, you have most likely experienced technology overload as well. Each year during the first week of May, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood promotes “Screen Free Week.” In response to our current situation, this year they have instead changed to “Screen Free Saturdays,” encouraging families to rest their eyes and minds from the screens of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones. 

Some call it unplugging. Some refer to it as digital detoxing. Whatever the name, it is a purposeful act of refraining from or limiting our exposure to digital technology for a specified time. Dr. Scott Becker is the director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center and specializes in researching the impact of digital technology on mental health. His research has found that the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships.

The overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, identity, intimacy and empathy.

Here are some practical ways to be intentional and mindful about your use of electronic devices this season:

  • Take some time to reflect on the ways you use technology in your daily life. What kinds of habits do you have now that you didn’t three months ago?
  • If you are on a screen often during your workday, follow the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. You could set a timer or there are apps like “Break Time” on Google Chrome that will pop up on your screen to remind you take a break. 
  • When you are indoors, mimic natural outdoor conditions by exposing yourself to bright light during the day, dim light in the evening and darkness at night. Our bodies are designed to respond to light in this way. Studies show you could improve your sleep by staying off electronic devices close to bedtime. And check out the settings on your phone or tablet to automatically adjust to a warmer color at night.
  • Increase productivity and focus by managing your phone use and email response. While at work, turn off email notifications and establish certain times to check and respond to email rather than immediately responding to that urgent ding. Designate times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects.
  • Set times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen.

Here’s wishing you Digital Wellness this coming week!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood https://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Stateside Podcast (2017). Just about everyone is addicted to screens. What can we do about it? https://www.michiganradio.org/post/just-about-everyone-addicted-screens-what-can-we-do-about-it

American Optometric Association (2016) Save your vision month: Counsel patients about digital eye strain in the workplace. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/save-your-vision-month-counsel-patients-about-digital-eye-strain-in-the-workplace-

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012). Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep. https://news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

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