As parents, we are all aware that the world in which our children are growing up is so much different than 30-40 years ago. With the internet, along with phones, tablets, and laptops, our kids have access to so much information at their fingertips which is a good thing (we’ll save the arguments against social media for another day). In fact, this past week, my daughter needed ideas for a school project on role models. After giving her some suggestions (including myself), she was intrigued with the idea of Billie Jean King, the former championship tennis player who famously beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes”. Within seconds, thanks to Google and YouTube, we were both reading about and watching videos of her while sitting in our living room.
Unfortunately, time spent on electronic devices comes with a physical cost in terms of less play time, less time spent outdoors, etc. Because of this, last year the World Health Organization (WHO) issued “Guidelines on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep for Children Under 5 Years of Age.” Some suggestions for parents and caregivers from an eye care perspective include:
- Ensure that children over the age of five spend more time outdoors and less time on digital devices. Recommend outdoor sport and play of at least 2 hours per day in total, spread between outdoor school activity and after school.
- Take breaks every 20 minutes by looking across the room for 20 seconds when using a computer or reading (20-20-20 rule).
- Children should not spend more than three hours a day – in addition to school time – on close work such as reading, homework, or screen-time.
In my opinion, these mini-computers that fit in the palms of our hands are incredible devices if used with constraints. I know it is not easy to get our kids to put down their darn phones, but as parents, let’s keep trying. Maybe in 20 years, our kids will realize that we were right just like we realized with our parents!