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A generation lost in their devices

A generation lost in their devices
Mary Thomas, Associate Editor, ATB, Jan 2019, Edmonton

The digital word has taken over our lives and we’re only as social as our social media feeds these days but this is affecting the family and social circles well. Nearly two-thirds of parents (63%) with children aged four and five say they are worried their child is spending too much time online. Concerns peak for parents with children aged 11- 13, with nearly three quarters (72%) expressing concern over too much time spent on their devices.


Parents of children aged 14-16 are particularly concerned about the impact of screen time on sleep patterns and school work. Half (50%) say their 14 to 16-year-old “stays up late using their devices and it impacts their sleep”. More than a third 40% say it’s impacting family time together. 63% of parents are concerned about the impact social media has on their kids’ mental well-being.


Out of the activities they do, the biggest concern is watching videos (59%), followed by gaming on consoles (41%), gaming on smartphones or tablets (36%) and connecting with friends on social media (35%).


But the research also revealed 70% of parents believe using devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones, is essential for their child’s learning and development. And around the same amount (67%) believe devices allow their child to be creative.


Meanwhile over a third of parents (36%) believe their children are not getting enough time to play outside because of screen time – while nearly a quarter (22%) say it’s holding children back from making real friends, rising to 30% for 14-16-year-olds.


Despite their concerns, more than one in five parents of 14-16-year olds say they take no action to restrict the amount of time their children spend online – compared to the average of 12% across all age groups.


Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “Parents can often find themselves in a dilemma when it comes to their kids and their devices. They know there is a whole amazing world online that can be beneficial to their kids, but they also see how apps, games and platforms pull them in and keep their attention.


“That’s why it is so important to talk to your children and agree boundaries with your kids around not just how long they go online for, but what they go online for; what is healthy screen time and what is unhealthy screen time. It doesn’t mean they can never play games or watch their favourite gaming vloggers.


Five tips for a healthy screen time balance:

  • Lead by example – just like anything, children copy their parents’ actions and behaviour. If you set boundaries for your own screen, it will be easier for your kids to do the same.
  • Set boundaries with your kids. Get them involved in the process of setting age appropriate limits on how much time they can spend online, at what times and on which
    platforms. Set up screen-free times or rooms where screens are out of sight and
    therefore more likely to be out of mind. 
  • Ensure a healthy mix of screen activity –a good balance of screen activities that encourage creativity, learning & education, connecting with family & friends, as well as using devices for passively engaging with content.
  • Avoid using screen time as a Reward – This will elevate the status of screen time above other activities and like using food as a reward may encourage children to simply want more
  • Physical activity & sleep– Make sure screens are not displacing these things by keeping screens out of bedrooms and that you are creating opportunities for your children to be active each day

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