Balance Your Own Screen Time 
to Better Balance Your Child’s

Why Screen Time Matters, What the Negative Effects Can Be for Adults and Children, and Great Ideas to Build Healthy Routines

          We all want the best for our kids. We want them to learn well, to be healthy, and to develop a strong sense of wellbeing that will guide them throughout their lives. It can be easy to forget how observant children are, after all: Everything is brand new to them. They are taking it all in and processing information about what shapes their world. Children watch their caregivers intently - afterall, these are the people who give them food when they are hungry, play with them and read them stories, tuck them safely into bed at night, and help them brush their teeth in the morning. These are the people who they love. With such wonderful responsibility, we as caretakers need to remember to model the behaviors that we want our children to apply to themselves. If we treat ourselves with kindness and take care of our own health, children will learn to treat themselves with that same kindness and responsibility.

Why balancing screen time matters

          Enforcing healthy levels of screen time are important for adults as well as for children. When adults model healthy and balanced screen time practices in their own lives, they can better set those boundaries and routines for children. While the negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s developing brains are more serious and longer lasting, it can also have insidious negative effects on the health of adults.

          Reid Health, a non-profit hospital in Indiana and Ohio, explains that since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns began, daily screen time in adults has increased from an average of 11 hours per day to 19 hours per day. For adults with work-from-home, white-collar, or similar computer-based jobs, the time spent in front of screens is almost non-stop. Yet even in their leisure time, many adults still default to screens: Checking social media on their smartphones, watching movies, checking emails, reading books on e-readers or tablets, and watching YouTube videos on phones. 

Negative effects of excessive screen time on adults

          University of Washington School of Medicine explains that in adults, “Prolonged screen time can:

  • Impede sleep
  • Decrease vision 
  • Lead to weight gain
  • Cause mental health problems.”

          Dr. Vivian Tran at Scripps Clinic Mission Valley says, “We know that too much of anything that puts a strain on your eyes is not good for your health. Excessive screen time can also result in:

  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Make it hard to fall asleep.”

 

Negative effects of excessive screen time on kids

          The blue light emanating from screens suppresses the amount of melatonin (which children need for healthy sleep) being produced in children's brains at almost twice the rate that it does for adults. Harvard researchers have linked a lack of regular, healthy, sleep in young children to long-lasting negative effects such as:

  • Attention span issues
  • Underdeveloped emotional control
  • A lack of healthy relationships
  • Librarians at the public libraryIssues with problem-solving skills
  • Issues with communication skills
  • Issues with social interaction skills
  • Can lead to mental health issues 
  • Creates unhealthy expectations

 

Modeling behaviors for kids

          Life without screens is unrealistic. We can, however, work to manage the amount of time that we spend on them. Working from home? Make an effort to stand up and stretch, blink your eyes, and play fetch with the dog! Do a five minute impromptu dance party with your kids. Let your children see you actively making these decisions. You are modeling taking care of your own needs, your body, and your happiness. This helps to empower children to do the same.

          Have conversations with other adults in the home about wanting to incorporate healthier activities than screens into your days, nights, and routines. Let children know about these conversations and about why you want to choose healthier options not only for them but for yourself. This allows children to observe your problem solving skills, reinforces that you have their best interests at heart, and demonstrates that you also care about your own wellbeing. When children see these healthy behaviors modeled to them, they can better incorporate these same behaviors into their own lives.

Ideas to help adults balance their own screen time

  • Instead of watching TV to unwind at the end of the day, try listening to a podcast or reading a good book.
  • Set an alarm during the day with reminders to get up from your screen, stretch, blink, take some deep breaths, and move for 5 minutes.
  • Actively notice how you’re feeling after long periods of being in front of a screen.
  • Actively notice how you’re feeling when you have breaks from screens.

University of Washington School of Medicine suggests that adults,

  • “Improve your sleep by using nighttime modes and stopping screen usage 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
  • Protect your eyes by using blue light blocking apps or eyewear and implementing good visual hygiene.
  • Try to blink consistently and apply eye drops if needed. 
  • It’s also important to take breaks to move and use an ergonomic setup.”

 

Ideas to help balance your children’s screen time

 

How Storypod can help kids and adults achieve healthy levels of screen time 

          Our entire edu-tainment platform is designed to be a completely screenless experience for children. Storypod provides a range of opportunities for adults to foster children’s healthy levels of screen time through behavior mimicry. Are you listening to more podcasts to help model healthy levels of screen time? When your children want to mimic your behavior, they can listen to their own audio entertainment on their Storypod, such as stories from their favorite Crafties. Are you trying to read more? They can practice their literacy skills with Storypod’s beloved read-along audiobooks. Are you writing or playing board games more? Children can brush up on academic skills with fun, interactive, and audio-based trivia cards. When you decide to create your own evening routine that supports less screen time, children can incorporate Storypod’s white noise feature, gentle night light, Crafties that sing bedtime lullabies, or iCrafties that can have recordings of their loved ones reading bedtime stories to them.

          Our new blog, Listen, Learn, Grow, is here to support families with relevant, timely, and helpful information about early childhood development. With brand new articles and exciting content always on the way, we’re working hard to bring you the information and support that you need. Take a look at some of our relevant articles on screen time and health:

Conclusion

          Balancing our own screen time as adults helps to model healthy behaviors to our children. It also provides significant benefits to our own mental and physical health. As our health and wellbeing improve, we are even better equipped to continue taking excellent care of our amazing children. As with all things in life, balance and moderation are key. When you take care of yourself, your children have a healthy role model to learn behaviors and routines from. When you balance your own levels of screen time and achieve those health benefits for yourself, you can better provide them to your children. From all of us here at Storypod, we see and recognize the hard work that caregivers do every single day to bolster their children’s health, happiness, and wellbeing. We are here to provide you with edu-tainment options that actively support your children’s growing brains and Social-Emotional Learning. Thank you for going on this journey with us.

References

  • 1 Million Screen-Free Activities for Kids (From Screen Free Parenting)
  • From The Washington Post: Worried About Your Kids’ Screen Time? Check Your Own First 
  • How to Model Good Behavior for Children (From KLA Schools)
  • 7 Ways Screen Time Affects Adults — And How to Cope (From UW Medicine)
  • 8 Tips to Reduce Screen Time for Adults (From SCRIPPS)
  • Mom Shares How She Avoided Screen Time Until Her Son Was 2 Years Old: ‘Normalize Being Bored’ (From In the Know)

          Wondering what stage your child is in? We provide caregivers with an easy, customized, online quiz that identifies each child’s unique needs, strengths, and areas for improvement! This allows us to work with caregivers to place each child at their best starting point on our screen-free pathway to learning.

Storypod’s online quiz takes into account:

  • Age
  • Grade-level
  • Developmental milestones
  • Interests
  • Recommendations from the CDC
  • Common Core Curriculum