For the past several years electronics have become the hottest gift items for the holidays. However, along with their popularity comes some challenges. For example, is it okay to allow children and youth unlimited screen time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP recommends that families limit the time kids spend in front of screens, including TVs, computers, tablets and handheld devices. This is especially important for very young children who are actively working to develop skills they’ll use the rest of their lives.
The AAP recommends no screen time at all for children younger than 18 months, kids between 2 and 5-years-old should spend one hour or less looking at a screen every day. For children older than 6, it's advised that parents not let electronics infringe on sleep or physical activity. The AAP defines screen time as time spent consuming media, it does not include doing homework in front of a computer.
Many health experts believe most parents aren’t sure how much time their kids spend in front of a screen. Consider some of these statistics; children between 8 and 12-years-old spend an average of 4 hours 44 minutes on a device every day. Teens average 7 hours 22 minutes a day, and that does not include time in front of screens for school or homework.
The World Health Organization released a study in the Spring that outlined how screen time impacts families. Ninety-five percent of families with children younger than 8-years-old have smartphones, 42 percent of children under 8-years-old have access to their own tablet or smartphone.
Aside from physical problems like eye strain or lack of sleep, parents should look for other warning signs that their kids may need to unplug. For example, they’re having trouble focusing in school, difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next, have issues socializing or behavioral problems.
It’s very likely the top several items on your child’s wish list are electronic or tablet devices. While there are benefits to having access to the internet at any time, there are great benefits to spending quality time with people in person too! Consider some of these gift alternatives this holiday;
Memberships; zoo, science museum, children’s museum, YMCA membership, etc. These are particularly great for family gifts! Many young families want to enjoy day outings, but affording them can be a challenge, so give them the gift of a yearly membership!
Classes; music, dance, riding, drawing. Classes are a great way to encourage children in their interests and let them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy.
Activities; mini golf, bowling, skating rink. A big part of the fun is going together. Children love spending time with the adults in their lives. They want to see you enjoying your time as well as enjoying them.
Something for their room; do they need a lamp, alarm clock, or shelf? Perhaps an organizing caddy to help keep their art or hobby supplies under control. Many older kids enjoy displaying their LEGO creations on a shelf where younger siblings can’t reach.
Games; they can be educational too! Monopoly and PayDay have been popular and help cement math skills. Memory games are great for younger children. Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are great for older kids.
Sporting equipment; Think through what activities you do as a family or something your children would enjoy doing.
No family wants to completely unplug from their tablets or smart devices but creating a balance, especially around the holidays, can help the youth in your family focus problem-solving and social skills during their time home from school.