Do you ever wonder why you feel tired yet you haven’t even switched on your computer and actually started work? Or why you struggle to get to sleep at night even though you feel like you are so exhausted you are close to passing out? If you are a parent of young children this is nothing new but even if a little one is yet to enter your life (and turn it upside down) you can feel fatigued.
As a blogger I look at my phone first thing in the morning. It feels natural to catch up with social media and emails. Although I’ve found that by the time I sit down in front of the computer to actually work I feel drained, uninspired and all those ideas I had the night before have seemingly vanished. The flashing cursor is taunting me as it awaits my next click.
You might have seen the BBC video showcasing a recent study which suggests that children in the UK don’t sleep enough. This is unsurprisingly affecting their concentration and ability to learn at school. It has an impact on their growth and development and it’s primarily down to one thing. Screen time.
I started out my career in motherhood stating that my little bundle of joy would not be handed my mobile phone. He wasn’t for the first year of his life but then he picked up on all of those adults (and many other children) around him engrossed in their phones. He observed them handling this curious device so he soon wanted to try it, too. I personally don’t think it’s all bad. He watches videos which has undoubtedly helped him develop an understanding of both numbers, letters and colours. He now easily distinguishing between shades of pink, purple and red at the tender age of two.
When another mum posted about how she uses the TV as a babysitter and that is okay as she couldn’t afford a real one and had no relatives around to help out, I could relate. Most of us have probably sat our child down in front of a screen knowing they will be happily entertained and we can get work or the washing done or simply enjoy a (hot!) cup of tea and a scroll through, what else, Facebook.
EVERYONE DOES IT, BUT SHOULD YOU?
While travelling through Heathrow Airport the other day I noticed something. Almost everyone was on their phone. Heads rolled forward, closed off to the world around them. Old people, young people, families with kids of all ages. Travelling pre-children I haven’t pick up on this because, guess what, I was one of them. With my two-year-old skipping along studying everything with the immense curiosity that only a child has – and that we adults could learn from – it really put this in stark contrast. We’ve made the trip to Denmark many times despite his young age and being a first-time parent my focus has solely been on how my baby handles the journey. Now that he’s getting more independent I’ve taken a page out of his book and started to look around more.
We all know that it’s easy to get caught up in scrolling through timelines and suddenly half an hour, an hour, two hours have passed and we feel our boring life can’t live up to that of everyone else’s… PUT THE PHONE AWAY NOW (unless you are reading this on one, then put it away afterwards). Our brains are not designed to multitask and if you want something done you need to allow yourself to focus on that sole task. It is exhausting for your eyes and in turn your brain to zoom in on a small screen, which means by the time you spend an hour catching up on everything you are too tired to really get into what is important.
HOW TO MANAGE CHILDREN’S SCREEN TIME (AND YOUR OWN)
As much as I would love to put my phone away completely it is not a possibility. I need it to take photos, I need it to keep up with work and social media and naturally, I need it to communicate with friends and family. I want to set a good example for Caspian though and make sure he sees that life is about so much more than what’s on that little screen. So what is the solution to limiting children’s screen time?
Set aside specific screen time. Whether it is in front of the computer, TV or on your phone or tablet. If you are working on the computer all day as part of your job then put your phone away for the commute. Bring a book, a magazine or simply use the time to practice a bit of mindfulness on your journey to work. When you are out and about with your children, be present and explore the world through their eyes.
Keep the phone out of your bedroom. This ideally goes for laptops and TVs, too. Buy an alarm clock. They are practical and can even look cool, too. If you are working from home like me then don’t make the phone your first stop of the day. Spend time as a family, with your kids, try a bit of yoga. Set aside specific time throughout the day where you look at your phone, reply to messages or emails and check social media. We’ve become so impatient as a society often immediately questioning why someone isn’t replying to our text or email.
Set a good example. If we don’t want our children to become addicted it’s important that we set a good example by not only cutting back on screen time ourselves but also by encouraging other activities, actively taking part in these through play and by all around being engaged in our kids’ lives.
As schools and even nurseries are incorporating modern devices into everyday education it’s important to remember that children are already spending much more time in front of screens than we did as youngsters. The new guidelines for better sleep and more relaxed children suggest no tv, tablet or phones in the hour before bedtime. I’m sure this would help a lot of adults sleep better, too, myself included!
What do you think? Do you have specific screen time? Are your children allowed to use your phone, tablet and computer?