There is a growing body of evidence that suggests too much screen time is becoming a hazard to our teenager’s eyes, general health and to their social skills. Too much screen time can also make it harder for your teenager to get to sleep.
Recent medical research from the University of New South Wales shows the number of Australian teenagers with myopia (short-sightedness) has doubled over the past 15 years. While genetic factors play a part, environmental factors (like increasing use of digital devices and a decrease in exposure to natural light) may be contributing to the problem.
So how do parents ensure teens don’t overdo their screen time? Laying down rules and time limits are only part of the answer. Here are some other things that can help:
- Find activities your teen enjoys doing that are not screen based, and encourage them to do them regularly—go to the local park, play a sport or join the crowd to watch a game, go fishing, play music or cook. When they’re having fun, screen time will suddenly become a lot less attractive.
- Encourage your teen to stay connected with friends and family through catch-ups, phone calls and get togethers.
- Set a good example. Your teenager will be less likely to take time off from their own screens if they see you on your mobile or computer all the time.
Here are some expert tips for healthy screen use:
- Take regular breaks.
- If your teen wears glasses, check with their optometrist about suitability for screen use.
- Don’t put the screen too close to your eyes, especially for long periods of time.
- Set up computer workspaces properly, including a chair that encourages correct posture, with both feet flat on the floor.
Also, talk to your teen about cybersafety. They need to know they should keep their passwords to themselves and never share personal details.