Welcome summer, our elusive friend. Hopefully, the season will bring us all the vitamin D and outdoor enjoyment we need to boost our feel-good factor very soon. We’ll move our bodies and expand our physical and natural environments with picnics, outings, sports and recreation – as long as we run away from screens. Perhaps through winter and rainy spring we’ve spent more time looking at screens on electronic devices. Our parks, beaches, coastline, bush, backyards and gardens are calling. But will the growing immersion into phones, Ipads, computers, TV screens, X-box, Nintendo and Minecraft continue to capture our lives? This article does not reject online time. Rather it promotes a balance to ensure family members also learn to enjoy fresh air and outdoor activity. If you are struggling to persuade your crew that digital media is interfering with their fitness, sleep, eye health and reading ability, you may have to introduce alternatives.
Summer is a great time to get the focus away from an overdose of sedentary activity and organise a bike ride, a treasure hunt or a trip to a museum or art gallery. Even if kids’ brains are resilient, take care to ensure that their physical and mental wellbeing does not suffer because of too much device use. In the case of little ones, too much time on devices may give them nightmares. If your kids are online, instead of attending a friend’s party, devices could be replacing human interaction.
No doubt the younger generation is being rewired by the increased use of devices. When dealing with teenagers, you have the choice of setting your router to operate only during certain hours. This can be especially useful if devices are robbing them of sleep. Research shows that bright light from some screens interferes with the natural light cues that signal to the brain to begin sleep cycles. Our brains respond to loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that brings on deep rest. Research subjects who used e-readers before bed time had lower melatonin levels, took longer to fall asleep and had altered sleep patterns.
Children under two years of age are not recommended to be exposed to screens at all. Babies have so much to learn from human bonding and attachment. They need to eat, sleep, play, listen, talk, be held and danced gently with. Fast-paced, full-colour cartoons are detrimental for brain development in kids.
The temptation to hand over your device to keep a toddler occupied is strong. Media experts call such devices a ‘shut-up toy.’ If you choose to let a toddler play alone on a device, perhaps on a plane or long car trip, also take along a few familiar books or games and limit access to the device.
Offer family opportunities for creative arts, crafts, and hands-on tasks to do with learning and coordination. Tennis, swimming, gardening, flax weaving and painting come to mind, especially if you find that you or your children are unable to interact socially or politely without gaming or using social media at family events.
If you’re brave, consider spending Christmas in a remote and beautiful location with no mobile coverage. Spend time reading, exploring sand dunes or inlets and contemplation. Play hide and seek in the light of the sun or use a spotlight and play hide and seek under the light of the moon. Summer rejuvenation.
Madhurii Ball, Homebuilders