Monday, March 22, 2010

Media Monday-Safe Screen Time

Digital media are ubiquitous in today's society. They are a source of entertainment, of information, and of vice. Kids need to be (and most are) proficient in them for their future livelihoods and social awareness, and schools increasingly expect children to do research through the Internet.

Parents naturally pay attention to the negative things that can be found on digital media, ranging from inappropriate content on the afternoon soap operas, to pedophiles lurking on Internet chat rooms, to violent material in video games, to hateful speech in popular music. But while we focus instinctively on the dangers to a child's mind and development, we ignore physiology.

Safe screen time requires good posture, frequent breaks, and exercises to prevent injury in addition to parental supervision and controls.

  • Make sure that your child's seat and desk are of an appropriate size and shape to discourage slouching. It used to be that slumped shoulders were a sign of age, but they are increasingly a sign of frequent computer use.
  • Frequent breaks are necessary, not only for the sake of posture, but for good circulation and vision. The nature of digital screens discourage sufficiently frequent blinking, leading to dry eyes, so have your child take breaks and look at other things (this link has many useful suggestions). Since shiny surfaces found indoors can compound computer eye strain, encourage your child to go outside at least daily.
These are all important habits and adjustments that too few of us think about. The best way to lead is by example. While it's a lot to instill in your child, try one at a time and gradual improvement. Forming good habits at an early age can save money, improve life quality, and will last a lifetime.

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