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Screen time and athletes is a nagging issue that parents have to deal with today. Too much screen time for kids isn’t life-threatening, but the effects of digital media abuse can add up over the years and turn into bad habits that become harder and harder for parents to control.
And for sports parents, the questions must be asked: how does screen time actually affect my young athlete? Here’s what experts are saying about screen time and your child:
When my husband used to take his softball team on overnight tournaments, he had a rule that the girls had to be off their phones by a certain time, knowing that they are easily tempted to stay up late texting or surfing their social media sites.
If your child is still on their phone after they are in bed, they are robbing themselves of much-needed sleep.
Studies show that motivation, focus, memory, and learning are impaired by shortened sleep. Lack of sleep also results in decreased accuracy and speed, and slower reaction times, which leads to more injuries.
This is the most obvious effect of too much screen time. Your child may feel pain and irritation in their eyes. If this continues for months, it can affect their vision in the future.
When kids are enamored with their screens, that means they are not paying attention to something else. Sometimes that’s okay; sometimes it’s not. When it distracts them from homework, people, sports practice, working out, or even game concentration, then screen time has become a hindrance to your child’s progress and growth.
Decreased Brain Health
An article in Phychology Today states that “Inactivity fueled by excessive screen time is causing our bodies and minds to short circuit. Human beings didn’t evolve to spend the majority of our time staring at a two-dimensional screen and living our lives in a virtual reality. Eventually, spending too much time on digital devices day after day has the potential to rob someone of his or her sense of wonder and awe.”
We need to move our bodies, explore and connect with other humans in person. This helps maintain brain health, also known as our psychological well-being. Excessive screen time can make kids lazy, unhealthy, overweight, lonely, anxious and depressed.
What’s a Parent to do?
What does all these mean for parents of athletes? It certainly doesn’t mean that your kids are doomed to failure just because they like their screens, it just means that parents must learn how to help kids manage screen time and make it work for their kids, rather than against.
Here’s a few ideas for how to manage your child’s screen time:
- Establish your values as a family. What sort of movies and games will you allow your kids to play? Make that decision and then talk about it as a family, explaining to your kids why these values are important. This will give them something to hang on to when they go to their friends’ homes where the values may not align with yours.
- Set rules and stick to them. You must first decide what your rules and guidelines are. This is often the hardest step for parents and I think that many struggle with screen time issues because they can’t take the first step of setting the rules. Do some research to determine what is best for your child and your family, inform every family member of the rules and then stick to them!
- Limit screen time. You may have to get some extra help in your efforts to limit screen time when it comes to phones. There’s just no way to monitor what your kids are doing on their phone. Or is there? I’ve recently partnered with the founders of an app called UnGlue, which allows parents to control and monitor what happens on their kids’ phones. It’s a pretty cool solution that gives your kids the power to learn healthier habits–within your boundaries. Try it for FREE (click here) for 14 days to see if you like it.
There are certainly a lot of good uses for smart phones, but when they keep your kids from being able to focus on their sports and on their responsibilities, and when they rob young athletes of sleep, it may be time to look for ways to help them learn better screen habits.
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