COLUMN: How do we unplug our children?

How much screen time is too much and how do we steer our kids to good content?

Growing up, we had a couple of channels on our TV and there wasn’t a dedicated channel for children’s shows that aired kid friendly content 24/7. We had to watch whatever was on during a specific time.

I remember watching Sesame Street sometimes and my mom told me recently she always put Polka Dot Door on for us in the late afternoon so she could prep dinner. Looking back, most of the stuff my siblings and I watched was educational and if there was nothing on, then we didn’t watch TV.

It was as simple as that.

RELATED: Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

Now, there are streaming services, multiple children’s channels and tablets filled with movies and shows. My daughter could literally (if I let her) watch anything, anytime. Sometimes this is a blessing. If I need to get something done or I need a bit of break, I can find something that will entertain her.

But is it also an unnecessary crutch? Are there days when I abuse screen time? Yes. And I feel bad about it. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have so many channels. But other days I wonder how my parents did without it.

It makes me wonder if we are raising a generation that is addicted to screens.

A recent study showed that kids who have a TV in the bedroom tended to watch half an hour more TV per day than other kids, are more likely to be overweight, have higher levels of self-reported depressive symptoms, teacher-reported emotional distress, victimization, physical aggression and poorer social skills by age 12 or 13.

That’s scary and no one wants any of that for their children. But it seems hard to believe that TV could do that much damage. A different study also suggested that increases in TV viewing are associated with lower language, mathematics, and composite test scores.

I’m not trying to instill guilt, TV can be helpful. We all need a break. But it is important to find a balance. It is something I’m trying to do with my daughter. She’s five and knows how to unlock the tablet, find Netflix and turn on a movie herself. Not something I’m proud of.

Sometimes I think that TV can be educational but the stuff my daughter likes to watch is not.

RELATED: B.C. doctor weighs in on the kid ‘screen time’ debate

Right now she is into watching this Youtube channel where a brother and sister have random competitions like who can make the better slime and who can play video games better. It is silly and I’m sure she isn’t learning anything. Fun fact, this brother-sister team (they are 11 and 13), is worth $20 million.

Most kids shows are silly. I guess and that is why they like them, but as a parent, I can’t help but question them.

How do the bubble guppies go to the beach? How big is the Paw Patrol’s budget? Why does Blippi have to incorporate the word tasty into every video? Don’t the kids from PJ Masks ever get tired? Why doesn’t Daniel Tiger wear pants but everyone else in his family does?

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@MariscaDekkema
marisca.bakker@interior-news.com

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