Tips for Making Better Screen Time Choices
by Nicole Sadlier, Mighty Movers CBR program

If I asked you the question “How much screen time should your child be limited to each day?” there’s a good chance you’ll know the answer. That is, no screen time for under 2 years and 1 hour for 2 years and over. There’s also a good chance that if we kept chatting on this topic you would mention that your child is getting too much screen time.
Although we know that we need to swap screen time for green time, many parents use screen time throughout their day so they can get stuff done. Whether it’s sending that email for a part-time job, trying to have an uninterrupted adult conversation, caring for a younger sibling or doing household work like getting dinner on the table – screen time works as a distraction and helps to combat scream time, but it’s an unhealthy option when it’s overused.

So, how do we find a balance that works for everyone? Here’s some tips to get you started:

Limit Background Screen Time
If you use the TV to make your home a little less quiet and create a background hum, try turning off the screen and playing music or a program that’s audio only. Parents have told me that there kids behaviour has improved once they stopped background screen time, so it’s definitely worth a try, Also, children innately start to move and feel the beat when they hear music playing, which increases their active play time.

Don’t say No
This may sound slightly crazy and counterintuitive, but I’ve found that when I say “No” to watching a program wailing can ensue. Instead – I say “Let’s do X first”. Normally (but not always) directing my child’s attention to a different activity starts them down a play path that doesn’t require a screen.

Scrap Soup
Lots of parents use screen time during meal preparation. To help combat this in my home, I created the game of Scrap Soup with my toddler during meal prep. It’s very easy, all the vegetable peeling that were destined for the compost are piled up on the kitchen counter for my toddler to play pretend cooking. Yes, at times it got messy, but it kept him active and engaged.

Select Physically Active Programs
One of the big issues with screen time is your child being sedentary. Try to select programs that encourage your child to get up, dance, try new actions or yoga poses and have outdoor adventures. Active programs can teach body awareness, help your child to move in different ways or inspire play ideas. If you have the time, join in too as kids love it when their parents play beside them.

Limit Passive Viewing
Passive screen time is when your child is sedentary and passively receiving information without any cognitive and physical engagement. There’s evidence that suggests that passive screen time is harmful to young children and is best to be avoided.

Like with eating a healthy diet, screen time is about moderation and making the best choices available to you. For more information and tips around screen time visit the ACT Health’s Good Habits for Life website – https://goodhabitsforlife.act.gov.au/kids-at-play/recommended-screen-time-limits-0

Mighty Movers CBR is an initiative of the Bluearth Foundation run in partnership with ACT Playgroups and supported by the ACT Government under the ACT Health Promotion Grants Program. We hope it helps you, your children and your family Move More, Sit Less.
Bluearth: improving the health and wellbeing of Australian children by making movement part of everyday life.