Well we actually need to talk about Screen time. But I liked the play on movie reference for a catchy title! Ok so in the world of tweens and teenagers I am well old. I am one of those rare folk who had a childhood before the world wide web. An 80’s child, a dinosaur, not too long until our extinction.
So screen time for me and my brother looked like a cartoon of our choice after school. That was it 2×20 min cartoons and done, the telly was on & off within 40 minutes. As the years went on we matured to the dreamy shores of Home and Away followed by Neighbours where the mythical world of Australia would fill my heart and I’d dream of marrying Brad all for myself (sorry Beth we were just better suited) with Harold playing trombone in the background.
Sorry I digress, once screen time was over I was repeatedly sent outside with a raw carrot to eat and was told to ‘go and play.’ It used to take me about 5 mins to stop whingeing about it but soon I’d be playing make believe in the garden with my magical friends, the fairies, the pixies, and the trolls who all loved eating carrots much more than I did. My imagination would run wild and I felt a deep connection to nature and felt the safety of home. I also used to have friends over or would go to friends houses after school a good few times a week too, I don’t remember ever sitting down and watching telly together we were too busy outside playing on the beach or in the garden and if it was too rainy we’d be inside making things, making up songs, dances, or perfromances and playing dress up, yes even as teenagers! The world outside was big and our imaginations even bigger. Apparently if you dug deep enough you’d reach Australia!
Sounds blissful, it was, I was very lucky.
Cut to today’s children. On average today 6.5 hours of screen time per day is considered ‘normal’ and healthy for children. What the bleeeeep? Teenagers average 8+ hours per day and tweens up to 3.5 hours minimum. Am I missing something here? if you put school in the middle of that day that doesn’t leave much time to a) eat b) verbally communicate with the people you live with (also known as family time) and c) do much else to support your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
‘It’s just the way it is nower days’ Well it shouldn’t bloody be!!!
10% of children have a diagnosable mental health issue that’s 3 children in an average classroom. That is ‘diagnosable’, what about all the other children who face anxiety, I bet if you took into account how kids felt about themselves, their self esteem, their confidence the percentages would rise. Today’s children are faced with an overwhelming amount of images, of comparison, of how to look, how to be, and equally as damaging how not to look, speak, act, and be. The youth of today are being asked to hold so much information and a lot of it is not coming from a loving and supportive place. Commercialism doesn’t have such ethics! Cyber bullying is off the richter and shockingly horrific and is not being monitored enough by the social media companies who run the sites. Not to mention the easy and incredibly damaging access to pornography. This is serious stuff, many young people are taking their own lives because it has got so bad. 4+ a week in the UK alone. We are failing these youths. We as adults, carers and protectors need to help them.
Firstly by doing your best to reduce screen time in any way you can.
And secondly by talking.
By being honest and opening up a dialogue about all these issues. It’s not a comfortable subject and it’s not easy to speak to someone who is deeply embarrassed, anxious, or feels ashamed but we have to. Another way in is by encouraging more activity together, By doing something together which will help with their mental and emotional wellbeing. Go for a walk, attend a yoga class, get some paint and make some art, play football, go swimming, go camping, or play chess – do anything which makes you connect person to person. Be honest and say ‘I miss you, I miss spending time with you,’ that way you make it about you which takes the pressure is off of them. And by spending more quality time together the opening and safety to talk will naturally arise.
You can also encourage your child to journal. Writing down your feelings is very cathartic and sometimes seeing your inner world on a page helps to transform it. And hopefully this goes without saying – don’t ever read it! It’s their safe space. There are lots of wonderful self help books out there which can help you and your child. I am currently writing a children’s novel which on the outside is a magic adventure story set in a forest but on the inside will aid as a self help manual for children. I’ll keep you posted once it’s finished!
And there is always therapy. Which from my own experience can help move mountains.
Now please don’t think I’m saying it’s all bad, the internet has done wonders for the world too, enhancing communication, learning, exploration and connecting people. There just needs to be balance. Like all things in life. We thrive in equanimity.
The world is a big place – the screen is not. Lets encourage our youth to live in the actual world not the virtual. We must nurture the creative, expressive, explosive, imaginative and inventive young people of today as if our and our planets future depended on it. Because in fact I think it just may do.
Young Minds website https://youngminds.org.uk/
Rachel Savage is the MMY Ambassador for the South West UK. She is also a writer, a performer, a teacher and best of all a Mama.