It’s a common sight – children glued to their iPad or iPhone when they’re out to dinner, on a plane or come to think of it, just about anywhere.
It is no secret that over the last decade, busy parents have increasingly turned to portable devices such as smartphones and tablets as the ‘go to’ method for keeping children occupied.
But has the age of ‘iParenting’ gone too far? If you’re worried about how much time your children are spending in front of screens, then your fears may be warranted.
Research by the Royal Children’s Hospital led by Dr Anthea Rhodes found that 94% of Australian teenagers now have a phone or tablet, while 67% of primary school kids and 36% of pre-schoolers have their own mobile devices. The average amount of time children spend on their screen is up to 32 hours per week.
According to Dr Rhodes, the consequences of excessive reliance on screen time can take a toll on a child’s social interaction with others, as well as their physical activity.
“Every hour a child spends on a device is an hour they’re not doing something else,” she said.
“If children spend an excessive amount of time on screens they’re not getting enough physically active play or face to face social interaction with other individuals.”
It is the psychological effects of replacing human interaction with digital interaction that has Dr Rhodes concerned, saying that real human interaction is essential for brain development.
“In young children, it’s consequences like difficulty regulating emotions and developing language, and in older children problems with mood and things like bullying.”
The study also showed that parents spend 40 hours a week in front of the screen, revealing they too need to revaluate their screen exposure.
While technology will only have more prevalence in our lives moving forward and there are benefits of children using tablets – such as the range of educational apps available, here are eight ways to keep you and your kids entertained without a screen.
Bedtime book club
When we say books, we’re referring to old-school paperback books, not electronic books downloaded on tablets or kindles.
Reading to your children before bed can settle them into a state of being calm. It also helps you to build a stronger relationship with your child, increase their vocabulary and introduce morals – remember the life lessons you learnt through ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’?
Choose a favourite story from your own childhood or take a trip to the bookshop and scour the shelves together.
While the image of being in the kitchen with your children drums up images of flour-covered benches and floors – it doesn’t have to be hard!
Aim for quick recipes with no more than six ingredients.
Children not only enjoy cooking because it’s fun – when they cook they feel responsible as they are taking part in an important family task. Another tip is to cook new recipes with them – they’re more likely to try that spinach and ricotta pie if they have made it.
For a small investment in a bag of soil and seedlings, you and your kids will be kept occupied for hours when planting a new garden bed. After the initial fun of digging the dirt and planting the seeds, they can then watch in amazement as their gardening efforts yield results.
To keep the kids interested, choose flowers or vegetables that grow quickly, such as sunflowers, corn and pumpkin.
Arrange a play date
There’s no denying that young children have endless amounts of energy. Organising a play date at the local park is the perfect way for your child to burn off some energy and socialise, and is also a good time for you to catch up with a friend.
Put pen to paper
A long-forgotten part of the modern world is handwriting letters and receiving mail in the post. Tee-up a pen pal with your colleague’s child, your child’s friend or cousin and it will allow them to develop skills in writing and literacy. If your child is having trouble thinking what to write about, suggest their pet, what they learnt this week or their favourite food.
Take to the tracks
Luckily for those living in Adelaide, there is an array of great bicycle tracks around the city. So pump up those bike tyres and get cycling!
Popular tracks include the Linear Trail around the River Torrens and the Coastal Park Path – a two-way pathway – that stretches all along the metropolitan Adelaide coastline from North Haven to Sellicks Beach.
Make a treasure hunt
This one may take a bit of work on your behalf – but it’s worth it. Write clues and then hide treats around the house or garden, for your children to find.
There’s not an app in sight with these games. From Hide And Seek, Hopscotch, Jump Rope, Marbles and Simon Says, these games are suitable for kids of all ages. Teach the rules and play along with them.
When you’re not looking after your children
As parents, you’re juggling work commitments and parenthood while trying to maintain your friendships, and as a result we know there are times when you will place your children in the care of a nanny, babysitter or educator.
At Hessel Group, one of South Australia’s leading providers of home based care, our carers are guided by your wishes when it comes to the amount of screen-time your children are exposed to.
In our activity lists, utilised by our carers, we have developed a range of screen-free activities that will enhance your child’s learning and social skills, as well as ensuring they’re having fun.
To learn more about home based care options with Hessel click here.