Homework

Developing Organisation Skills in Kids

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

(c) Quirky Kid

 

Here are some questions for you:

  • How many times do you have to ask your fourteen year old to get started on their homework?
  • How many funky old sandwiches have you retrieved from the bottom of your ten year olds’ school bag?
  • Has your preschooler ever been ready to leave when you are?

Organising your kids can be trying but helping them to develop these skills for themselves will make your life and theirs much easier. As with all aspects of parenting, our expectations of our children need to be developmentally appropriate (most four year olds have trouble sitting down to read a story the first time they are asked, let alone ticking off items on a to do list) but that doesn’t mean we can’t help our children to develop good habits early on.

Routines and Time Management

To start instilling organisational skills in kids early on (and to help keep all members of the household stay sane), establish simple household routines and stick to them. For example,

  • in the morning we eat our breakfast, brush our teeth and then get dressed;
  • in the afternoon we unpack our lunch box as soon as we walk in the door and then eat a healthy snack together.

For important routines like the morning rush and bedtime, you can even use fun visuals to help your child stay on track without constant reminders from you. Make a step-by-step checklist with pictures for each “to do”, for extra fun, stick these pictures to a poster with velcro and let your child peel each step off as it is completed.

If you are organised, they will be too, children learn through watching others around them. Maybe not quite as well organised as you are, but it will help! Organise yourself with the little things so that they don’t pile up, for example, as soon as a permission slip comes home – read it, sign it and put it back in their bag – job done! In this way you can lead by example and then compliment this by talking about time management. Use calendars, family planners, white boards or pin boards around the house and collaborate as a family on organisation. Using a weekly schedule which includes things like school, homework and extracurricular activities, will keep the family on track. Including “down time” and time with friends on the schedule will help to teach your child about balance.

Some Tricks of the Trade

Different strategies will work in different families but here are a few tried and true techniques to help your child to develop organisational skills:

  • Break down big projects or assignments into small, manageable chunks. Once this has been achieved, encourage your child to plan out when and how they will complete each “chunk”. This is also helpful for procrastinators as it takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed by an insurmountable task. Provide regular praise for having a go and completing plans.

  • Make it a game! There are lots of ways to improve organisation that can actually be fun. “Beat The Buzzer” is a great way to get things moving in the morning.

  • Help your child prioritise. Improve homework focus by encouraging your child to work out what needs to be done and turn it into a checklist. Crossing out or ticking off items on the list will be both rewarding and motivating.

  • Allocate places in the house for important activities like studying. This cuts down on time wasted looking for materials and will help them to mentally click into “homework mode”.

  • Use timers for anything that needs to be time limited, such as computer and TV time. This is also great to promote sharing and turn taking in activities in which everyone wants equal time.

  • Colour code books according to subject and match these with timetables and other relevant materials. This will help your child to find what they need quickly and remember where they need to be or what they should be doing.

Putting it into Practice

Talk about the new ideas you are introducing to help them become more organised and why this is important. Make sure that they feel involved in planning and timetabling so that they don’t feel that this is just another set of rules that are being imposed upon them. This will also be important in helping them to develop the skills for themselves rather than having you do it for them.

When you catch your child demonstrating good organisational skills (eg. being ready to leave on time, following a step in the new routine) provide them with some specific and meaningful praise about what a great effort they are putting in (eg. “thank you Ella for putting on your shoes and taking your bag to the car so we could be on time for school today. You are very good at that”).

Introduce new strategies one at a time and provide plenty of rewards and praise along the way. Remember that teaching kids to be organised can be fun and with a little creativity, the possibilities are endless!

References

Hannan, Tim. Learning Disorders in Children: Recent advances in research and practice. InPsych, December 2013

Recommended Resources.

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Homework with teens

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Quirky Kid Image with computer and books for homework

The word ‘homework’ for many teenagers and their parents evokes feelings of dread, frustration and sheer agony. While most teens and parents understand the reasons for being given homework, namely to help develop sound study habits, to foster learning outside the school environment, consolidate the learning undertaken in class and foster independence and responsibility, homework time can quickly become a battleground in which family tensions can rise to boiling point. The debate surrounding homework and its benefits have been ongoing since the early 20th century.

During the 1940’s homework was given less emphasis as schools moved away from utilising rote- learning and memorisation as a key teaching focus to a more skills-based problem solving approach to learning. Again in the 1960’s, homework was given less emphasis as concerns were raised about it’s detrimental impact on children’s social and recreational activity time. Nowadays, there appears to be a more balanced approach with a recognition of the importance of children enjoying recreational time as well as time engaged in more structured homework activity.

Benefits of Homework

Research is clearly telling us that homework can have significant benefits for a child. Generally speaking, studies are showing us that academic achievement is improved for children who partake in some homework (Cooper, Robinson & Patall, 2006). However, there are additional factors which appear to influence the positive relationship between homework and academic achievement. Firstly, the relevance and applicability of homework appears important, with homework that has clear, specific learning purposes having a stronger positive relationship with academic outcomes.

Additionally, the time spent on homework does not simply have a linear relationship with academic outcome. Interestingly, research suggests that there is a point at which too much time given to homework can be counterproductive and fail to enhance academic achievement for children. Lastly, the amount and type of parental involvement can moderate the benefits of homework. Parental involvement in homework which is over-structured, controlling and negative can diminish the positive effects of homework on achievement for children.

Where should our focus be?

While there are a multitude of factors which may impact on how children respond to homework tasks, such as the family environment, their relationship with the school and teacher, personality factors and learning strengths and weaknesses, children’s organisational skills play an important role in how they achieve academically. Organisational skills are skills that relate to not only a child managing their own belongings and materials (for example, transferring their homework into their diaries and bringing the diary home), but also their ability to plan and allocate time to tasks such as homework (for example, breaking down projects into manageable sections and allocating time to each section accordingly) (Langberg, Epstein, Becker, Girio-Herrera & Vaughn, 2012).

For children in their teens, organisational skills appear to play a significant role in predicting children’s academic achievement (Langberg et al., 2012). The difficulty is, the teen years, particularly those around the transition into high school are a time when children’s organisational skills appear to be most compromised, given the changing environment associated with high school (for example, multiple classroom and teacher changes), increased demands on children to be independent and greater amounts of work (Langberg et al., 2012).

So how can parents help?

Research and clinical experience tells us that parents play an integral role in helping their children manage their homework tasks.

  • Evaluate your own attitude: Look closely at the messages your child hears or sees from you about homework. It is likely that if you have a negative attitude, your child will also. Reframe homework as a task that is part of every child’s schooling life and focus on the benefits it can bring, such as greater academic confidence, a sense of achievement and important life skills.
  • Establish a routine: work with your child to develop a shared structure of when and how they will do their homework. Empower your child to be part of the process and let them make some of the choices around homework time. Try to have family routines set, so children can plan homework and other activities around family time such as dinner. With your child, also establish some boundaries, such as charging their phone in another room at homework time and having the TV off as well as an appropriate timeframe for homework completion.
  • Set the scene: make the best of homework time and ensure your home environment is set up to help your child focus and feel comfortable. Set children up in a quiet area and ensure your child has appropriate seating, lighting and other things necessary for homework, such as pencils, snacks and water. It can also be helpful to look at your child’s goals and focus on how homework may help them achieve those goals (for example, how maths can help them in opening their own cafe).
  • Natural consequences: rather than engaging in a battle about homework, it may be appropriate for your child to learn the consequences of not handing in their homework given by their school. This may help to develop your child’s sense of responsibility and ownership over homework completion and relieve some of the pressure parents may feel with homework tasks.
  • Communicate with your school and teacher: find out from your child’s teacher your role in their learning and homework and what added supports you may need to provide for your child. Communication with your child’s teacher on homework tasks can also help you to support your child’s organisational skills, ensuring they are managing their time and on task for homework deadlines.
  • Timetable relaxation time with plenty of options: exercise and relaxation time are well established to not only be beneficial for our stress levels, mood and physical health, but also for our concentration and attentional abilities. Scheduling time off will help your child develop their own hobbies, skills, gifts and talents and support their learning.
  • Help your child develop their organisational skills: Helping children become better organised not only enhances the possibility of homework arriving home, but also of it being completed on time! Develop an organisational system to help children remember to write down their homework and bring it home (for example, develop a colour coded timetable for each subject or a checklist for what they need to remember to pack before home time). Visual reminders with pictures of what a child needs to remember can be helpful. Additionally, when your child receives an assignment help them break it down and plan out how they will approach it. It is often helpful for children to work out what is most difficult so they can work on those tasks first when they feel more alert and focused.
  • Set an example: children will generally find it difficult to go off and start their homework if the rest of the family is enjoying a TV show. When your child is doing their homework try and engage in a similar activity, such as reading, completing your own work or household chores. This demonstrates to your child that you too have discipline and responsibility and that you are respectful to the effort they are putting into their work. Being interested and helpful without being too interfering or directive will also help develop your child’s sense of responsibility and independence in homework tasks. Praise your child for effort and commitment and utilise rewards that are unlikely to compete with homework activities, such as verbal praise and time with you rather than extra TV or iPad time.
  • Develop incidental learning experiences for your child: take opportunities to learn outside desk-based homework time. This will help foster your child’s enjoyment in the learning process.
  • Recognise when things are difficult: Some children find learning more difficult than others and may find homework tasks overwhelming and deflating. If you are concerned your child is having significant difficulty with their homework tasks, consult with their teacher and utilise resources that may be available, such as homework club, learning support or tutoring. Most schools have a homework policy which may be helpful in reviewing homework for your child.

While homework can be a tricky time, particularly for teens and their parents, supporting children in developing their organisational skills, sense of independence and responsibility can help foster a sense of achievement and confidence that will help set them up for future success!

Resources: How to do Homework without throwing up by Trevor Romain

References:

1. NSW Government Education and Communities Public Schools NSW Fact Sheet: Homework: a parent guide http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/homework/index.php

2. Langberg, J., Epstein, J., Becker, S., Girio-Herrera, E. & Vaughn, A. (2012). Evaluation of the Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) Intervention for Middle School Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as Implemented by School Mental Health Providers. School PSychology Review, 41 (3), 342-364.

3. Cooper, H., Robinson, J. & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1-62.

4. Knollmann, M. & Wild, E. (2007). Quality of parental support and student’s emotions during homework: Moderating effects of students’ motivational orientations. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XXIII (1), 63-76.

Technology Addiction and Young People.

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Iphone, heart and pink backgroung

It seems in today’s world children are born ‘digital’. From young toddlers to teens, children appear to have a knack of being able to navigate the world of technology, using a range of gadgets for enjoyment, social connection, education, communication and convenience. Technology is the vehicle through which children are taken on missions, through fantastical virtual landscapes, into characters and to their friends and provides children with much reward and enjoyment. Classrooms are now filled with technology from computers to interactive whiteboards and families are now inviting a range of technologies into their homes.

Along with the multitude of benefits technology brings, there has been widening concern over the time children spend with technology and the type of interactions children are having through technology.

Here is an Interview we completed regarding this top:

The Australian Communications and Media Authority reported that in 2007, children were spending on average close to five hours a day with technology, a figure which has likely increased with the proliferation of media-enabled smart phones and other electronic devices (ACAMA). In fact, in April 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that nearly a third of all 5-14 year old children had their own mobile phones. With the increased sedentary time children are spending with technology and reduced time in outdoor play, links are being drawn between overuse of technology and a delay in children’s achievement of sensory and motor milestones (Rowan, 2010) and reduced academic performance (Gentile, 2012). Certainly, parents have been commenting on the struggles they have in steering their children outdoors for playtime and the friction caused when children are asked to leave technology for homework time.

The types of interactions children are having with technology is also of concern. Australian research mirrors that of the United States, in which significant increases in the popularity of electronic gaming, particularly among boys, has been observed (ACAMA). Exposure to violent content during gaming has been correlated with aggression and desensitization to violence (Gentile, 2012), which is of particular concern, given the evidence that gaming can be very addictive (ABC, 2012). There appears to be a great interest among children in combat-focused games, which is starting to filter into playground play with their peers.

How can I tell if my child is addicted to technology? 

The Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing Guidelines suggest that children younger than 2 years should not spend any time watching TV or using other electronic media such as DVD’s, electronic games or computers. Children between the ages of 2-5 years should be limited to less than one hour a day on these activities and children 5 years and older should be limited to 2 hours or less on these activities

Some key signs that may indicate that your child is spending too much time with technology are:

  • your child may be spending large amounts of time consumed and preoccupied with technology, which may impact on his/her time to complete other daily tasks.
  • your child may withdraw from previously enjoyed activities such as playing with their siblings and playing outside.
  • your child may withdraw from family and friends
  • your child may be saying things like “I’m bored” or “lost” without technology.
  • your child may be becoming very tired and irritable as a consequence of staying up late or waking through the night or early morning to use technology.
  • your child may request or demand technology during mealtimes.
  • your child may be spending time surfing the internet with a lack of purpose
  • your child may become angry or distressed when limits to technology use are attempted.
  • your child’s technology use may be impacting negatively on their grades and school work.
  • your child may be reporting an increased preference with socialising online.
  • your child may engage in unsafe technology use, for example, making friends with strangers.

Problems and suggested strategies for with technology 

Research suggests that even 2 hours spent a day on non-homework use of technology can negatively impact on children’s overall development (King et al., 2012). Some common problems are:

A) Falling behind on social, emotional and physical milestones:

Children need to be active, have their senses stimulated and have opportunities for social connection to develop both physically and psychologically. Children who are spending more and more time on technology, for example, have been observed to be failing to meet their motor milestones (King et al., 2012). A recent study, including Australian children, demonstrated that more children between the ages of 2-5 years could play games on a computer than complete age appropriate tasks such as tie their shoelaces and ride their bike (SMH).

Some helpful tips would be to: 

  • Set a good example. Set your own limits and demonstrate this to your child. For example, a family rule may be no phones or technology at the dinner table for any family member.
  • Skill up your child. Help your child develop coping skills for managing technology and non-technology time. For example:
    • Explore their talents and interests and foster these
    • Help your child develop problem solving skills and practice using these, particularly in times when your child is feeling at a loose end without technology
    • Develop your child’s physical capabilities, such as helping them with their fine and gross motor skills.
    • Develop your child’s communication skills, demonstrate conversation, friendship, conflict-resolution skills and practice these and listen to your child when they are communicating with you
  • Be proactive in helping your child develop friendships through out of school activities, play dates and developing their interests
  • Develop some new family traditions. Have times when the family disconnects with technology and reconnects as a family unit. Involve your children in brainstorming activities they might like to do as a family that don’t involve technology and make a point of doing them regularly.
  • Challenge your own thoughts. Many of our own thoughts and perceptions can get in the way of helping our children limit their technology use. For example, believing the outside play is unsafe or that technology is good to help your child be quiet, can limit your ability to maintain healthy boundaries for your child’s technology use.
  • Schedule some downtime time. Make sure your child has some scheduled time in their week to be unscheduled, unstructured and free from technology, homework and planned activities. Help your child play in the garden, at the park or the beach, for example, without the distractions of technology. Invite your child’s friends along to foster friendships and social skills. Interact with your child and demonstrate how to make your own fun and play in a free and unstructured way.


b) Experiencing high stress levels and exposure to violence

Children who overuse technology appear to experience physiological changes which mimic those seen in high stress states, such as high heart rates, fast paced breathing and hyperacute hearing and vision (Rowan, 2010). Additionally, playing violent virtual games has been linked to increased aggression and reduced empathy-skills among children and suggests these games may well desensitise children to violence (Rowan, 2010).

Some helpful tips would be to:

  • Set some relaxation time. Explore the things your child finds relaxing that do not involve technology and make time to regularly engage in these activities.
  • Be selective. Determine what is appropriate and not appropriate for your child to play and keep the boundaries clear. If your child has played a game that is violent, talk through it with your child, discussing things like what is real and fantasy and how your child might view the game.

c) Falling behind at school 

The overuse of technology has been found to impact negatively on children’s academic performance (Farber et al., 2012; Gentile, 2012). Children typically find it difficult to self-regulate their technology use, which can mean that daily tasks such as homework and reading are not completed or not given the time needed.

Some helpful tips would be to: 

  • Set clear limits and boundaries. Negotiate with your child on how much time they can spend with technology daily and stick to it. Help your child choose how to use technology and how to plan for non-technology time. Avoid using technology as a reward and involve older children in these negotiations.
  • Monitor computer-based tasks.  Be aware of the school-based tasks your child is completing on the computer and help them remain on task and focused.
  • Set time to read and help your child with their homework. Talk to the school if there are difficulties completing the homework and take an interest in school-based tasks at home.

d)  Other psychosocial difficulties such as sleep difficulties.

The overuse of technology has also been associated with sleep difficulties and increased anxiety, depression and isolation in some cases, particularly when children are exposed to personal safety risks such as cyberbullying and sexting (Farber et al., 2012).

Some helpful tips would be to: 

  • Educate yourself. Know what technology your child is using and what they are doing on that technology. Be your child’s friend on facebook, look at their Tumblr account, know the websites and games they seek. Most devices have parental controls and keep technology use in public areas in your house.
  • Educate your child. Help your child know how to safely navigate technology, know the risks and how to identify them and know the supports they can seek if things go awry. Have some simple rules such as no sending of videos or photos without permission, no ‘friending’ people that you haven’t met.
  • Establish clear bedtime routines and limits. Shift technology use to daylight hours and out of the bedroom. Research suggests that children who use a computer before bedtime take longer to fall asleep, have a poorer quality sleep and are more distractible and fatigued during the day (King et al., 2012). Have a device charging station in a public space in your house for all family members to plug into during the night.
  • Seek help. Seek professional help if you identify a personal safety risk involving your child or if your child is experiencing symptoms consistent with a mental health disorder.

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References

King, D., Delfabbro, P., Griffiths, M. & Gradisar, M. (2012). Cognitive-Behavioural Approaches to Outpatient Treatment of Internet Addiction in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68 (11), 1185-1195.

Farber, B., Shafron, G., Hamadani, J., Wald, E. & Nitzburg, G. (2012). Children, Technology, Problems, and Preferences. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68 (11), 1225-1229.

Rowan, C. (2010). Unplug-Don’t Drug: A Critical Look at the Influence of Technology on Child Behaviour With an Alternative Way of Responding Other Than Evaluation and Drugging. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 12 (1), 60-68.

Australian Bureau of Statistics: http://www.abs.gov.au

Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/modern-technology-needs-to-be-more-than-childs-play-20110822-1j6om.html

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing- http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#rec_0_5

Australian Communications and Media Authority (June 2010): Trends in media use by children and young people. Insights from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Generation M2 2009 (USA), and results from the ACMA’s Media and communications in Australian families 2007

ABC News (2012): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-25/gaming-as-addictive-as-gambling/4390920

Gentile, D. (2012) The Effects of Video Games on Children: What Parents Need to Know. Paediatrics for Parents.  http://www.pedsforparents.com/articles/2791.shtml

References not Quoted:

Gallagher, B. (2005). New Technology: Helping or Harming Children? Child Abuse Review, 14, 367-373.

4. Stevenson, O. (2011). From public policy to family practices: researching the everyday realities of families’ technology use at home. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 336-346.

 

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School Readiness

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Following on from our fact-sheet about preparing for kindergarten, below we continue to explore the questions that most parents explore in regards to deciding if their children are actually read for school.

What is school-readiness?

School-readiness refers to the point at which a child is considered “ready” to enter the formal education system.

In previous generations, a child was considered “school ready” when she passed a certain age (for example, if she turns 5 before July 31).

Now, however, an increasing number of parents and schools are rethinking the idea of age-based “school-readiness”. Instead, they believe a child is school ready when she is academically, socially, physically, and emotionally ready to cope with the demands of the classroom and the playground.

To help parents decide if their child is ready for school, or for a new level of school such as Middle school or Secondary school, here are some things to keep in mind.

Make Comparison

If you’re sending your child to Kindergarten, ask yourself:

  • How well does my child socialize in comparison to same-aged peers?
  • Can my child sit and focus when given an activity?
  • Does my child respond to set boundaries?

If you’re sending your child to secondary school, ask yourself:

  • Is my child mature or immature in comparison to peers?
  • Is my child organized and motivated?
  • How does my child feel about changing schools?

While it’s impossible to predict any child’s future, it’s important to consider if your child’s development puts her in a position to follow this timeline, or if it puts her in a position where at some point she is likely to be overwhelmed and falling behind.
As repeating grades is not recommended due to the impact of self esteem and friendships, delaying your child’s entry to Kindergarten, Middle School, or Secondary School may be your only chance to ensure that her schooling is appropriate for her development.

Research your child’s school

Before you decide whether or not to send your child to school, it’s a good idea to get a sense of the demands she’ll face by meeting with potential teachers, talking to parents at the school gate and observing students in potential playgrounds.

You are also encouraged to research the school curriculum, standardized testing such as the NAPLAN and the daily routines of the classroom. Ask an administrator at a local school, or contact your school board, to find out these details.

Assess your child’s skills

A child’s development is typically assessed in term of these four (4) categories: academic, social, physical and emotional.

If your child is developing at a similar rate to her peers in these four categories, you may wish to consider advancing her through school on a typical timeline. Children with significant developmental challenges, however, may have difficulty keeping up with their peers. In this case, it may be best to delay starting school until she can successfully cope with the common demands of school life.

Academic

At any new school level, your child will have to cope with academic demands.

  • Is your child interested in learning?
  • How developed are her language and communication skills?
  • Does she seem interested in reading, writing, mathematics or creative activities?
  • Can she pay attention and sit still for a (relatively) long period of time?

Social

  • Does your child show patterns of friendship that are age appropriate?
  • Can she cope with conflict?
  • How will your child react to unstructured play time at recess and lunch (for Kindergarten) or interacting with students outside her class (secondary school)?

Emotional

Think about the emotional demands that will be required of your child at the new school level, and ask yourself if she can meet them.

  • How does your child cope with setbacks or frustration?
  •  How often does she require comforting or reassurance?
  • How independent is your child when eating, using the toilet, or getting dressed?

Physical

Consider your child’s gross and fine motor skills in relation to the physical tasks required by the new level of school. Can she independently do zippers or buttons to manage her school uniform?

  • How does she find writing or using a keyboard? Does she have any disability or illness that will affect how she adjusts to school life?

Consider accommodations

Many children with difficulties in one or more of these four key areas may benefit from starting school at the typical time for their age group if their challenge is effectively addressed either in or out of the classroom.

For example, a child with physical challenges may “catch up” with regular visits with an Occupational Therapist. Social issues are best managed by a Child Psychologist.  If you feel your child can handle the demands of school overall, but needs help with one specific area, it might be a good idea to seek support to address any challenges.

Talk to your child’s other caregivers and/or educators

If you’re not sure about your child’s developmental patterns, some of the most useful sources of information are staff at your child’s current school or pre-school. These professionals not only spend a lot of time with your child, but with many other children of the same age.

Get your child tested

If you have significant concerns about your child’s development, it can be a good idea to have your child assessed to measure where she is falling compared to her peers.

Standardized testing such as using the Griffiths Mental Development Scales (GMDS), Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID-III), Stanford Binet (Early SB5) or Wechsler (WPPSI – III) Intelligence Scales will break down different aspects of your child’s development, showing her strengths and weaknesses, as well as normative scores for her age.

If you have any questions or queries about standardized developmental assessments, please give us a call at the Quirky Kid Clinic on 9362 9297.

Recommended Resources

image of ticktes behaviour tool

Information in this factsheet was obtained from interviews with Psychologist Belinda Jones and Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid clinic.

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Children Screen Time

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Many parents, educators, and mental health professionals are concerned about the amount of time children are spending watching TV or “plugged in” to video games, computers and online activities.

According to recent studies, young children under the age of 2 spend an average of 2 hours per day watching TV or other screen media (like computers), while children over the age of 8 spend around 7 hours per day in front of screens (including texting on mobile phones).

What are the risks of too much screen time?

While kids have a lot of fun using screen media, it can also have negative effects on their healthy development. Some of the risks associated with excessive TV and computer use during childhood include:

  • attention difficulties: The rapid sequence of images and information that characterizes screen media inhibits the brain’s ability to develop sustained focus.
  • delayed language and limited vocabularies: While watching screen media the part of the brain that is responsible for language acquisition becomes passive, making it difficult for babies to learn words and syntax.
  • more aggressive and violent play behaviour: Children may become desensitized to the consequences of aggressive behavior after seeing it presented as benign or humorous on TV or online.
  • obesity: Sitting in front of the computer or TV means less time spent on active play, which reduces the likelihood of childhood obesity.

How much screen time is OK?

Most experts and recent research agree that children under 2 should not use screen media. The activity can interfere with playing, exploring, and interacting with others, all of which are crucial to physical and social development in the first 2 years of life.  Children under 8 should use screen media for no more than 1-2 hours per day.

How can we cut back our family’s screen time?

It can be a real challenge to cut back on screen media use at home, especially as adults are excessive users as well.

The best way to encourage your children to cut back on using the TV, computers, and mobile phones is to model healthy behaviour yourself. Set a limit on screen time at home — say, 2 hours per day in the evenings, broken up into 30-minute chunks. It’s also a good idea to provide fun alternative activities to reduce the likelihood of boredom.

Free play, reading, and in-person conversations are activities that promote healthy brain development in children — encourage activities that include these options.

Suggested resources:

Some other tips to cut back on screen time at home:

  • Unplug and cover up. When you’re not using computers or the TV, unplug them, or stash them in a cabinet where you can’t see them.
  • Schedule. Limit use of screen media to at least 2 hours before your child’s bedtime. Using a computer or watching TV close to bedtime can interfere with your child’s sleep cycles, and make it difficult for them to doze off.
  • Relocate. Designate a “computer zone” for your family that is in a well-trafficked space, like the living room, so that users feel less absorbed while they’re using them.
  • Communicate. Tell your child’s babysitter and her friends’ parents that you are trying to cut back on screen time, so that your child isn’t gorging on screen media when you’re not around.
  • Converse. Watch TV with your child during designated screen media time, and ask them questions about the programming throughout. This will stimulate the language centres of your child’s brain, which are less active while watching TV.
  • Reconsider. Try not to offer TV, computer, or mobile phone use as a reward for good behaviour, or prohibit use as punishment. This can heighten a child’s interest in screen media.

We offer a range of services, workshops and individualized consultations to support children experience screen addiction. Please contact us for more information.

Sources:

Family Education Network (2010). Watch TV Along with Your Child. Retrieved from http://life.familyeducation.com/television/toddler/53399.html?detoured=1

Graham, Judith. “Children, Television and Screen Time.” University of Maine (2011). Retrieved from http://umaine.edu/publications/4100e/

Ravichandran, P. & deBravo, B.F., (June, 2010). Young Children and Screen Time (Television, DVDs, Computer). National Research Center for Women and Families.

Pediatrics, A. A. o. (2011). Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 years. American Academy of Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-1753, 8.

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