Children have a lot of free-time during their young lives. This free-time is often good for them, increasing their independence and improving imagination and creativity. However, the organic and idyllic times of “just playing outside” sailed away quite a while ago. These days, free-time is often jeopardized by screen-time.
Screens Always Win
Even in school, children have cellphones and are required to do much of their schoolwork using a computer. This means they have this constant distraction, a digital temptation. Many parents wage war against screens, limiting time using parental controls; however, the screen always wins. My four year old child is in a dayhome for 8 hours a day, has a class once a week, and a pet to walk with me every evening and I still have to restrict screen time. Unless there is another activity to take children away from them, the screen-time wins the free-time!
Overscheduling Myths and Theories
In 2008, a report regarding overscheduled children was published by a non-profit group called Child Trends. At the time of publication, many theories regarding overscheduling children leaned towards the notion that overscheduling had negative effects, and children suffered as a result of too many activities. Contrary to this belief, Child Trends showed that children exposed to overscheduled activities had higher self-esteem, were able to maintain balance in their lives naturally, and had lower rates of drug and alcohol use in later years. These same children also spent more time doing schoolwork, playing informal games, and doing household chores than other children, and still watched TV! How?
They spent less time in front of computers and video games. You can view the publication here.
In 2016, a documentary titled “Screenagers” was released. It explored the challenges of parenting in the digital age and exposed the theory regarding overscheduling children. Psychologists and brain scientists revealed how internet addictions, social media, and video games increased stress and anxiety and reduced the ability to maintain a healthy life balance. Screenagers also goes into detail on how to reduce friction within the home regarding screen-time: scheduling of course! Click here.
Of course, as a parent, we are drawn to other articles regarding children that are depressed or anxious as a result of being too busy. While this has not been proven, the alternative to overscheduling is free‑time, where a child has the freedom to explore the world and create their own fun. The reality, though, is that playing outside, making up a game of your own, or daydreaming in a corner isn’t easy when a screen, of one form or another, is in every room of the home, and sometimes in your back pocket.
Who Can Schedule Their Family
Screenagers, which is based around families with teenagers, emphasizes the divide between those families with the time and income to increase their child’s amount of extracurricular activities. However, scheduling a child, even ones as young as mine, with a starter-family income, is very feasible! For instance, we purchase one class at a time through our local recreation centre (classes that usually accommodate the entire family to get our monies worth). Additionally, their Grandpa is big into soccer and practices with the boys once a week on “Blog Night.” We schedule arts and crafts time, and park time on weekends. And I even schedule household chores into my children’s lives; right before bedtime, we start cleaning the house together. This also adds to our bedtime routine and keeps me from losing my mind in a dirty home.
How Many Activities
There is no set rule for the amount of scheduling and which kinds are optimal. Researchers agree that it all depends on the child. Additionally, allowing for some downtime is necessary to accommodate relaxation and family-time. The key is to find the balance between activities and unscheduled downtime. You want to minimize boredom, which is often the cause for excessive screen-time. Watch your children or talk to them for indications of what kind of scheduling is beneficial to them to limit screen-time.
Sever the Screen Connection
Like educators, researchers, and exasperated parents everywhere, you and your family can embrace the benefits of a scheduled lifestyle to reduce screen-time and increase your family’s self-esteem! Not to mention productivity!
By scheduling sports, crafts, social interactions, outdoor activities, and household chores, you’re ensuring your child is busy with creative, mind-stimulating, and stress-reducing activities. The activities you choose are up to you and your child!