Less screen time = more green time

Time to put the Ipad away for more play

Unsurprisingly, spending large amounts of time on screens is linked to poor health behaviours including poor sleep patterns, behavioural issues, low activity levels, poor appetite regulation and more.  

We’re living in an era where technology is part of our everyday lives. We use it for school, work, and leisure. At this point, it’s impossible for our kids to avoid it. But what we can do is establish a balance between screen time and other activities.  

Spending time on screens mostly involves ‘sitting’. This is also known as sedentary behaviour. Just as we have recommendations for how long we should be physically active, we also have recommendations for how much time kids should be sitting on screens each day. 

The national recommendations say children 5 years and older should spend no more than 2 hours in front of a screen, for leisure, each day. And young children, between 2-5 years (that aren’t at school just yet) should aim for less than 1 hour on screens each day.  

How much time would your kids typically spend on screens each day and how does this compare to the recommended limit?  

If it’s more than the recommended 2 hours per day, never fear! You can gradually work towards changing this behaviour and we’ve got some parent-tested strategies to get you started. 

  1. Talk to your kids about balance. Have conversations about why spending too much time on screens isn’t the best for us. When kids understand the rationale for why, they are more likely to behave when you ask them to put the iPad away or turn off the play station instead of thinking you’re just ‘being mean’.
  2. Set a schedule and make it specific. Chances are setting a daily screen time allowance for each child isn’t’ going to work, unless you have the time to watch the kids 24/7 and time them with a stopwatch. Instead, set specific times they can, and cannot use screens. For example, screens are allowed in the morning for 30 minutes before school between 7.00 – 7.30am and for an hour after dinner between 6.00 – 7.00pm. 
  3. Model healthy screen use. Kids are going to resist switching off screens if they see mum and dad watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram. Remember, monkey see monkey do. Your kids are always watching and observing your behaviour so try your best to model the behaviour you want to see from them. 
  4. Find replacement activities. Give the kids something else to do instead. Easier said than done, right? It’s important to plan this in advance. Have a list of indoor and outdoor activities the kids can do ready to go, so when the time comes, they can pick something off the list – saves you scratching your head for a distraction in the moment.
  5. Plan screen time transitions. It can be hard to get your kids to stop watching TV or playing on the iPad if they’re having a good time. But, planning transition activities can help manage this. For a seamless transition, set expectations from the beginning for example, as your child turns on the TV for the scheduled TV time you might say “You can watch one episode then it’s time to get ready for bed”. Then as their scheduled screen time is coming to an end, choose the right timing to give them a warning that their screen time is nearly over. You might choose to do this in an ad break on TV or after completing a level in a game. Then when screen time is up, offer your help and support to switch off, save their game and get ready for the next activity.