While it may be hard to believe, recent studies show that kids have their eyes on screens for at least seven hours every day. Over time, that constant screen time can be harmful to young eyes and growing minds. Of course, it is not the intent of parents to harm their kids and it can just be par for the course when we are trying to entertain our little ones or give them something to do while mom and dad are working.
With that said, there are many other activities that you can introduce to your kids that can take their eyes off of screens and help them to develop into smart and able-bodied adults. If you want to see your child thrive and help the planet, then sustainable activities are a great place to start. Let’s talk about the dangers of screen time and how turning their intention to the environment can be a great alternative.
Appreciation of Nature
One of the greatest downsides of too much screen time is the mental and behavioral impact that an obsession with these devices can create. Recent studies have shown that elementary-age children who have TVs in their bedrooms perform worse on academic tests, and kids in that same age group who watch TV or stare at a computer for over two hours a day can also experience behavioral problems as they grow, such as difficulty managing emotions and poor impulse control.
While some screen time is okay, a lack of experience with the outside world can make a child feel isolated and act out. Even if your kids are not as engaged in the sustainable activities we will talk about today, it is still important to manage how often your kids are watching television and using mobile devices. Parents should set boundaries for when and how long their children can watch TV, and you can enable apps on your devices that turn off the screen after a predetermined amount of time.
The first big benefit of having your children go outside and engage in sustainable activities is that they will see what the world has to offer so they can appreciate nature like they never have before. You can start by doing something simple like planting a fruit tree in your backyard. Not only will this new tree pump out essential oxygen that helps the community breathe better, but when your child can eat a piece of fruit off of a tree that they planted, they will have a better understanding of nature's circle of life.
When your kids go outside to engage in sustainable activities, they will not only make a positive impact on the planet, but they could also sleep better at night as well. The problem with too much screen time is that when kids watch TV or look at a cell phone screen close to their bedtime, the blue light that the device emits can negatively impact their circadian rhythm, which is how our hormones and the cells in our brains know when it is time to sleep and time to wake. Doctors say that even if it isn’t right before bed, children who have over two hours of screen time per day can have trouble sleeping, and that is not good for their developing minds and bodies.
In addition to the Vitamin D we absorb from the sun and the mental health benefits that time outside provides, just being outdoors can also help children sleep better at night. When we spend time in nature, we can improve our concentration and our mood, and that helps us to have a clearer mind when we lay our head down on our pillow at night. That is on top of the fact that fresh air also lowers our body temperature, which helps us to shift into a restful sleep.
There are many outdoor activities that parents can do with their kids that will help the planet and guarantee peaceful rest at night. You can go out and collect cans at the local park or teach them about the benefits of composting. You can also make environmentally-friendly arts and crafts projects like a natural bird feeder out of sticks and twine. While you don’t have to spend all day outside, a couple of hours here and there can do wonders.
More Physical Activity
Another great benefit of sustainability over screen time is that your children can get a lot more physical activity than they could when sitting in front of the television. While there are some ways that your kids can keep the blood flowing while watching screens, like standing and marching in place as they watch and doing jumping jacks during commercials, there is really no substitute for time outside.
A great sustainable activity that children can do in the backyard is helping mom and dad grow a garden. By planting and eating the food you produce yourself, your family will save money while also cutting down on gas emissions produced by your vehicle as you drive to and from the store to buy the fruits and vegetables that are grown by someone else. Gardening also promotes opportunities for exercise as it requires repetitive standing and crouching and the tools we use (shovels, hoe) create a great opportunity for cardio.
This is also a good time to teach your kids about more sustainable ways to get from place to place without using fuel, and a bike is a great place to start. By taking family bike rides, your kids will learn how easy it is to travel and how fun it is to see new sights on the roadside, all without negatively impacting the environment. Teach them the importance of this now, and they may take their love of biking into adulthood and convince others to join. When we all work together, we can make a difference for a cleaner and healthier planet.
As you can see, there are many benefits to prioritizing sustainable activities over screen time. By trying the activities discussed here, you can raise well-adjusted children who truly appreciate what our planet has to offer.
Written by Frankie Wallace
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