We have noticed through assessments that we complete for children and teenagers, a significant number have a worryingly low score on their ability to engage in independent activities and to self soothe. The child who doesn’t learn how to play by himself, read by herself or spend time alone healthily is much more likely to engage in damaging self stimulatory behaviour as a teenager or adult. This might be viewing unhealthy images or videos, not being able to sleep properly, addictions, anxiety, depression….
The inability to have down time and rest is on the increase and it is in fact very damaging to a person’s health as well as to relationships and family life.
Teaching your child to play independently as opposed to being dependent upon a screen is an extremely beneficial skill. It is something that we see missing in the majority of adults who come to us with an addiction or significant struggle as an adult.
In all of our work with children, teenagers, and adults, as well as with couples and whole families, we see a very strong link with activity and higher level of well being. It is, of course, cyclical. Lower activity and interaction with the outside world, means lower doses of ‘happy hormones’ are released which means that one is likely to be more anxious and depressed. In very layman terms, basically the anxious and avoidant behaviours are reinforced which in turn increases them. This is exactly the same for depression.
Having said all that, it is important not to feel guilty as a parent and to ensure that we have a healthy balance across the month. It is not necessarily about daily ‘balance’, but about a healthy spread over time. For example, some weeks my children will not have one moment of screen time and this can last for two-three weeks. Then one week they may watch a movie every day for a week because we are so tired as a family, it is rainy out and we are just in a very snuggly mode!
So in conclusion, it is all about balance.
Check back over the next few Mondays for our blogs on the relationship between screen time and ADHD, gaming and teenagers, viewing of screen time violence and depression/anger in teenagers, sleep in teenagers and much more.