At the end of a long day, sometimes all we want to do is just zone out and relax. Our go-to ways of relaxing usually involve a screen of one type or another. Juggling our schedules, children’s schedules, homework, extracurricular activities, and then getting dinner on the table is enough to make anyone tired. Our kids feel the same way when they get home from their busy lives. However, how are children utilizing their relaxation time? Are we allowing too much screen time, social media, or video games? How can we find the balance that is best for our brains and well being?
Screen time from the brain’s perspective
Our brain is always working. It is constantly creating neural connections while deactivating the less-used ones. What is happening on a screen provides stimulation to the brain but can change the circuits of the growing brain. Screen time is a time when children are not entirely in tune with reality. Videos, video games, and even social media stimulate the brain to think about what we are viewing and seeing subconsciously. When children are bored, their imaginations run wild. This is a vital time for creativity to prosper. Screen time can also have a negative effect on sleep. Getting enough sleep at night promotes healthy brain development and essential cognitive skills. Using blue light, screens, or phones before bed can disrupt the sleep cycle by suppressing the hormone melatonin. Our bodies and our brains get used to a sleep routine. The use of screens allows our brain to adapt to “staying awake.” Think about it: when you see light, you are under the impression it is daytime, and it is time to begin your day. The brain responds to light, developing connections to be awake or stay awake.
Social Media- Is it Helpful, Harmful, or Somewhere in Between?
Limiting screen time
Social media, screen time, and its effects on us raise some questions worth considering. How can we limit screen time and social media usage? How do we make others aware of the detrimental effects it may have on mental health? It can be challenging to find time to relax, and that time is so important. Of course, there are times when you might find yourself wanting just to let children use their IPADs, video games, phones, and other screen platforms so you can have some peace. We get it. Everything in moderation. Are there other activities (that don’t include screens) the kids can do? How about board games, books, or coloring? Set the example by modeling the behavior you want to see. Board games, books, and coloring are still fun and relaxing as adults!
Tips and Takeaways
We’ve discussed creating a schedule and time blocking in previous articles. To create limits to screen time, you can enforce daily or weekly screen time curfews. You can include these in the schedules you may have previously created. It may be beneficial to consider creating screen/technology-free zones, possibly during mealtime, before bed, or one or two nights a week. Have you ever heard of “meatless Mondays”? Why not try “tech-free Tuesdays”? Getting everyone to become more engaged in non-technological activities can encourage balance and moderation. Try out different things and see what works best for you as a family. Most importantly, be willing to try. When we feel tired, trying something new might be the last thing we want to do. But it might be the start of some great changes for your family. Below are some tips and some articles on how to limit screen time.