Even before the COVID-19 pandemic limited interaction between kids to online classes, Zoom parties and sharing TikTok videos, it was a struggle for parents to limit screen time for a digital native generation.
While research shows limiting kids’ screen time to two hours or less per day can improve their memory, attention and language skills, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction with U.S. teens spending an average of seven hours or more per day on their screens.
Screen Time on the Rise
A report by Common Sense Media in 2019 not only found teens spending 7+ hours a day on screens but that number did not include time on screens doing homework or other school activities.
Researchers tracked more than 1,600 teens (ages 13-18) and tweens (ages 8-12).
Screen time was up by 42 minutes per day since 2015 with:
- Nearly 62 percent spending 4+ hours of day of screen time
- Some 29 percent of high-end users were on their screens 8+ hours per day
Limiting Screen Time Has Benefits
The rise in screen time usage comes while researchers are showing benefit of limiting screen time in coordination with sleep and exercise habits.
A 2018 study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, tracked 4,500 kids ages 8 to 11 and their habits compared to the national guidelines of:
- Screen time limited to two hours or less per day
- Between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night
- At least 1+ hours of physical activity per day
Children who met the goals showed better “global cognition” which includes memory, attention, and language.
Unfortunately, not many kids met the goals of the three categories with only 51% of the kids getting the sleep required; 37% limiting their screen time to two hours or less; and just 18% getting the physical activity required.
Meeting all three goals were just 1 in 20 kids.
Importance of Getting Kids Outside
Parents for years have been telling kids to “go outside and play” and they are right, according to Dr. Danae Lund, who specializes in child and adolescent behavioral health at Sanford Health.
Lund, in a 2018 article, listed some of the key benefits of getting kids outside:
- Physically, Healthier Kids: All that running, jumping, etc. builds stronger bones and muscles. Motor skills improve and exposure to sun gives kids needed Vitamin D.
- Cognitive and Emotional/Social Development: Unstructured outdoor play is important as kids explore, invent, and learn on their own. With playdates and friends, social and emotional development occurs. Bonus: fresh air relieves stress.
- Sensory Skills Improved: Screen time limits kids to hearing and sight while outdoor play utilizes smell and touch. Research has shown outdoor play can lead to better vision.
- Increases Attention Span: Studies showed kids with ADHD had fewer symptoms if they spent significant time outdoors.
- Better Immunity and Happiness: Outdoor light stimulates the part of the brain, the pineal gland, responsible for keeping immune systems strong. Spending time outside is also linked to improved moods and happiness.
Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Play Outside
There are many ways to get your kids to put down their screens and go outside and play, including:
- Have a picnic/eat meals and snacks outside
- Encourage sports play with balls, gloves, and nets in the yard
- Set up a scavenger hunt and give your kids a list of things to find such as flowers, birds nest, insects, trees, lizards, so on
- Create a treasure hunt by hiding small items around the yard
- Plant and tend their own garden
- Supply kids with “bug catching kits” that include nets, magnifying glasses, scoops, containers.
- Get creative with outdoor chalk on the sidewalk and patio
- Take a “staycation” by camping overnight in your backyard
- Turn your backyard into a cool playground with swings, slides, climbing ropes and trampolines
At Recreation Pro we build in-ground trampoline systems that will make kids happily put down their screens and head outside.
If you want to learn more about how we can add an in-ground trampoline to your backyard, contact us today.