Now more than ever, our families are relying on our laptops, tablets and phones to maintain a certain standard of normalcy. While technology has provided a unique means of being able to push forward with personal responsibilities and goals during the pandemic--creating opportunities for parents to work from home and children to learn online--the obvious down-side is an increased dependence on our devices. This is especially apparent for young kids, who are now spending large portions of their days utilizing screen time, whether it's for virtual learning, socialization, or entertainment. Are you looking for practical ways to reduce screen time, and carve out moments during the day that are technology-free? Below are tips to help promote healthy screen habits for the entire family:
Try Eliminating Screens for Two Hours Before Bedtime:
Out of necessity, many of us are on our laptops for majority of the day. Be intentional about cutting out technology from your schedule at least two hours before laying down for bed, as the blue light from screens has been shown to disrupt sleep cycles. This is especially important for kids. Consider setting limits on any apps that might "ding" or offer notifications. Using an actual alarm clock, rather than a phone, can also reduce the temptation to scroll the internet before bed.
Enjoy One Screen-Free Meal a Day:
Make it a family goal to sit down for at least one screen-free family meal a day. Depending on your family schedule, this may mean starting your day with an easy breakfast at the table, or perhaps dinner once everyone has finished their daily tasks. Whatever meal you decide on, be intentional about spending time connecting with your kids without any technology present. Turn off the background TV noise, leave your phones in your rooms, and enjoy each other's company through conversation or games.
Put a Limit on Scrolling Time:
If you're at home with your kids, carve out the time to go for quick 5-15-minute walks throughout the day. These walks don't need to be long or rigorous, but taking a break from screen time to get outdoors, stretch the legs, take in the fresh air, and just observe a difficult form of stimulation is good for both the body and the mind. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can improve productivity, mood, and a sense of self-esteem, and ultimately can serve as a great reset from screen time.
Take Your Lunch Away from Your Workspace:
It's all too easy to justify taking a quick lunch at your workspace, in order to save time and continue with your task. As tempting as it is to take your lunch in front of your screen, challenge yourself, and especially your children, to step away from the laptop or phone when taking a lunch. With the lines between work/school and home-life becoming increasingly blurred for parents and children, it's more important now than ever to create clear boundaries and practice intentionality. Even if it's for ten minutes, step away from your laptop to enjoy your lunch, while giving your eyes and mind a break from the screen.
Oregon health authority recommendations for protecting eye health:
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends blinking often and following the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes look away from the computer at something that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following: 1) Get regular eye exams 2) Eat a healthy diet, including leafy greens such as spinach or kale, and maintain a healthy weight. 3) Know your family's eye health history. 4) wear sunglasses that block out 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation (the sun's rays). 5) Quit smoking or don't start.
If you’re concerned about the amount of screen time you or your kids are consuming, consider the above tips for reducing bad habits and breaking up screen time throughout the day.