Reducing Screen Time–Even Just a Little–Makes a Big Difference

mrdad - screen time ripple effect

mrdad - screen time ripple effectDear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have an 11-year-old who’s very tech savvy and spends a lot of time on her phone and computer. A lot of experts—you included—talk about how we parents should cut back on our kids screen time. That sounds like a great idea, except that we both work full time and are exhausted when we get home, and neither of us has the energy to get into a battle with our daughter. We tried limiting her screen time, but after a few weeks, we didn’t see any difference in her behavior or her grades. Is there really any point in forcing the issue? Our home seems a lot more peaceful when don’t bug our daughter.

A: I love technology, and I’m constantly amazed at the marvelous things it allows us to do. But when it comes to kids (and many adults), there can be too much of a good thing. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that children spend an average of seven hours per day in front of some kind of screen (TV, computer, phones, and other devices). In addition, quite a bit of research indicates that there’s a direct correlation between screen time and obesity, eating disorders, poor academic performance, and other problems.

In our gut, most parents understand that we need to monitor our children’s screen time, but given how pervasive screens are in our daily life, limiting them is really hard. What makes it even harder is that, as you pointed out, it doesn’t produce immediate benefits. As a result, we can get frustrated, question why we’re trying in the first place, and simply give up rather than risk getting sucked into a knock-down-drag-out fight.
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Want your kids to learn more? Give ’em a break. A nice, long break…

No matter what you think of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind legislation, there are some results that can’t be disputed. One of them is that schools were under a huge amount of pressure to keep their scores high. I have nothing against high scores, but sometimes the costs outweigh the benefits. A lot of schools, for example, decided that they didn’t have enough time during the school day to teach their kids what they needed to know. So they did something that might have seemed logical at the time, but was a complete disaster: They cut out recess. We’re not talking high-schools here, or even middle schools. There are tons of kindergartens where the kids don’t get recess.

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When is reading with your kids like cigarette smoking?

Okay, provocative question, but I do have a point. When it comes to cigarettes, we all know what we should do: quit. And when it comes to reading to our children, we also know what we should do: story time for at least 20 minutes every night (or as close as you can).

So that’s why I was surprised to read about a new study done in London that found that less than a third of parents “read to their children every day and half say they are too busy to read and that work comes first.” And who’s to blame? Certainly not mom and dad.

The findings, commissioned for an annual search for new children’s authors, links the economic downturn with the decline of story time. Of 2,000 parents surveyed, 10 percent said they read to their kids only once a month, and another 10 percent say they never read to their children. “Half said their excuse for not reading was because they had been forced to work extra hours to cope with the rise in the cost of living.”

As someone who has read all of the Harry Potter books and all of the Series of Unfortunate Events books (13 of them) outloud to his kids at least twice, I’m pretty hard core when it comes to reading (I read to them and they read to me). You don’t have to be as obsessive as I am, but remember that kids who get read to when they’re young enter school better prepared and with larger vocabularies, do better in school, are more likely to graduate, and much less likely to get into trouble with the law (something like 75% of prison inmates have significant reading problems).

The full, gruesome article is here: www.indianexpress.com/news/parents-too-busy-to-read-bedtime-stories-to-their-kids/922737/0