Switch it off

  • POSTED ON 25/11/2020 BY KATE

Switch it off

Did you know that having screen switch off times can have a hugely positive impact on your family’s nutrition and sleep for starters, not to mention their mental health and balance? Getting your family to agree and help set No-Go Zones needs to be supplemented with No-Go Times, and this is why:


Some kinds of information are safe to share on the internet and some are just not! The starting point is to make a clear distinction between personal (safe)and private (unsafe) information and help your kids understand the difference.


Personal information can’t be used to identify you, so it is OK to share it, but not necessarily freely. It is the pieces of your life that you might choose to share at an in-person networking event or a party. It could include your first name, username, opinions, interests and favourite activities.


Private information on the other hand, can be used to identify you or locate you, so it should never be shared online. It could include your full name, identity number, address, school name, passwords, pin numbers and upcoming events in your diary.


Young people can be vulnerable, as they place a great deal of importance on developing an online personality, and many sites ask for their private information. While some are savvy enough to set up strict privacy restrictions on their games, apps and profiles, it is vital to keep encouraging them to be proactive about the risks associated with providing private information online.


To an identity thief, private information can provide instant access to financial accounts, credit record, and other assets. If you think no one would be interested in your personal information, think again. Anyone can be a victim of identity theft.


Common Sense has some great educational resources that we’ve tapped into. They suggest chatting to your kids about the kind of information that is asked for by the app or internet sites they like to frequent – such as social networking, video-sharing, youth discussion, ask-an-expert or gaming sites.


Ask them to think about what information is required?


First name, username, password, password hint, gender, the state you live in, parent’s permission, etc. might be required because it helps distinguish one person from another. Or perhaps the website is keeping a record of who uses it.


Then ask them what information they think might be optional?


Parent’s email, birthday, state, country, gender, etc. is likely optional because the website does not require it for payment or to distinguish people. Or perhaps the website wants to keep track of this kind of information.


Finally get them to think about why apps and websites ask for this kind of information?


They want to get people to pay in order to use the site, they want to send messages to people who are signing up, or they want to try to sell things to those people.


Point out to your kids that they do not have to fill out fields on websites if they are not required. Required fields are usually marked by an asterisk (*) or are highlighted in red.


We all know by now, that using a computer or phone before bed interferes with sleep, but how to explain it to our kids, and help them build good habits early on?


The human biological clock follows a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. When the sun rises in the morning, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that makes you feel awake and alert. As daylight fades, the body releases another hormone, melatonin, that produces feelings of sleepiness.


Electronic back-lit devices like cell phones, tablets, gaming consoles, TV’s and computers, emit short-wavelength enriched light, also known as blue light, which has been shown to reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness. Blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.


The data from multiple studies has confirmed time and again, that using any device with a screen in the hours leading up to bedtime causes kids to sleep less and get poorer quality sleep. First, the content is too stimulating and wakes them up, especially if it’s video or mobile games. Second, the light emitted from mobile devices has some shocking effects on the body, including reducing melatonin, which can wreak havoc on kids’ circadian (sleep cycle) rhythms. Lastly, since so many kids have their own mobile devices that they can sneak into their rooms, many of them are staying up past bedtime to watch shows and play games.


The Sleep Foundation recommends a screen time cut off of 1 hour before bed, but says there are even benefits to discontinuing it just 30 minutes before bed. For better sleep for your whole family, the tried and tested strategies you can rely on are:

  • Decrease your daytime and night-time electronics use: Using electronic devices for long periods during the day can negatively impact sleep too, especially among adolescents.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine: The hour before bed should consist of relaxing activities that don’t involve devices with screens.
  • Make your bedroom a screen-free zone: Remove all of your electronic devices from your bedroom – and encourage your kids to do the same.
  • Keep the bedroom lights dim: Dimmer indoor lighting affects your melatonin production to a much lesser extent.
  • Use night-time mode: Many cell phones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices are equipped with a “night-time mode” that is easier on the eyes before bed. You should manually dim the display if your device does not automatically adjust the brightness in night-time mode.
  • Invest in some “blue blocker” glasses: These orange-tinted eyeglasses are specifically designed to shield your eyes from blue light emissions.

Childhood sleep deprivation is conclusively linked to higher rates of obesity, psychological problems, reduced cognitive functioning and increased risk-taking behaviours at later ages, according to the authors of that study. So, as tough as it can be to wrestle kids away from TVs, video games, phones and tablets, it really is necessary. Establishing some firm rules for your kids’ bedtime routines could have a seriously positive effect on their health. As well as yours!


Apart from physical play, nutrition and sleep are the two most important building blocks of a healthy brain and body. Implementing even one of the recommendations in this blog will bring lasting change into your child’s life and remember, it is never too late to make a change.


Downloads related to this article.

  • Screen Time Guide

  • Digital Family Alliance Guideline

  • Digital Family Alliance Template

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