Although television, interactive video games and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment for children, too much screen time can lead to bad health and behaviourial problems. In fact research by Public Health England has found that children who spend more than four hours a day in front of the television and computer screen have lower self-esteem and greater emotional problems.
“To ensure your child stays healthy and happy, take the time to understand the risks associated with watching too much TV and monitor how long they spend watching shows and playing video games this holiday,” school counsellor and teacher at Cape Town based Riverside College, Dave Swart says. “Too much screen time means less physical activity and face-to-face interaction with friends and family, these are both key towards creating a stress-free childhood.”
Children who watch more than the recommended two hours of television per day can suffer from obesity, irregular sleep, impaired academic performance and behavioural problems such as aggression. Excessive exposure to video games is linked with attention problems. “While it might be nice to get your kids out of your hair for a while, find healthier activities for them – the TV should be a treat, not the accepted norm,” advises Swart.
Impose rules about the amount of time a week your children are allowed to spend on electronic devices such as iPads, tablets, smartphones and gaming equipment – “perhaps take the devices away if they do not appear to be respecting the rules,” says Dave. With regards to TV time, it is a good idea to limit this to weekends only; “As discipline and routine goes out the window, create a viewing timetable during the school holidays – this way everyone gets to watch a couple of hours of their favourite programme a week and it’s within limits.”
Make sure to research the TV shows, movies and video games your child watches and plays. “If it appears too violent, includes excessive swearing, sexual content or explicit references, explain why it is not appropriate for them to view it,” says Swart. “Age restrictions are there for a reason.”
- Never place a TV or computer in your child’s room – this can result in irregular sleeping patterns and poor academic performance;
- Discourage the association of food with TV time;
- Ban excessive screen time;
- Encourage healthy activities such as dancing, football, puzzles and group activities to help build social skills;
- Set a good example – when you are are home limit how much TV you watch, don’t stay glued to your phone or spend too long online;
- Preview programmes and read the reviews, paying special attention to the age rating.
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 462 1723 / 084 639 4304
On behalf of Riverside College:
Founder: Elana Edwards
Counsellor: Dave Swart