Health Column

by Sifu (Dr.) Rikin Patel MD

This is the second of a two-part series on helping address screen and digital media time inspired by the challenging pandemic we are in. Building on identifying the opportunity in part one now let’s strive to improve. Also see Part I: Screen Time for Martial Artists: The Opportunity.

In this article I will introduce the 4 M model for a systematic approach for parents to trial and experiment with making changes:

MANAGE screen use. How?

  • Make and regularly review or revise a Family media plan (link below), including individualized time and content limits.
  • Continue to be present and engaged when screens are used
  • Whenever possible, co-view and talk about content with children and teens.
  • Consider learning about parental controls and privacy settings. Since no parental control is perfect speak proactively with children and teens about acceptable and unacceptable online behaviours.
  • Consider obtaining your child’s or teen’s passwords and login information for devices and social media accounts, to help ensure safety online and to follow online profiles and activities if concerns arise.

Encourage MEANINGFUL screen use. How?

  • Prioritize daily routines, such as interacting face-to-face, sleep, and practicing kung fu over screen use.
  • Prioritize screen activities that are educational, active, or social over those that are passive or unsocial.
  • If possible be a part of your children’s media lives. For example, join in during video game play and ask about their experiences and encounters online. Remember to them even if short, that’s quality time with mom or dad in their eyes.
  • Advocate for schools, child care centres and after-school programs to consider developing their own plan for digital screen use. This is important because our children don’t live in a box and we can’t monitor them all the time.

MODEL healthy screen use:

  • Parents please review your own media habits and plan time for alternative hobbies, activities.
  • Reflect on the dangers of texting while driving, walking, jogging, or biking and try minimize if not avoid.
  • An absolute MUST, please ensure daily “screen-free” times, especially for family meals and socializing.
  • Ask whether screens are “off” when not in use (this includes background TVs).
  • Strive to avoid screens at least 1 hour before bedtime. I would strongly discourage having a TV in the bedroom (and phone which has become the new TV).

MONITOR for signs of problematic screen use:

At any age, these could include:

  • Complaints about being bored or unhappy without access to technology.
  • Oppositional behaviour in response to screen time limits.
  • Screen use that interferes with sleep, school or face-to-face interactions.
  • Screen time that interferes with play, physical activities or socializing face-to-face.
  • Negative emotions following online interactions or video games or while texting

I understand this an extensive list of suggestions, but the goal is to help our Kung Fu family and beyond be better martial artists with good character and thoughtful leaders for tomorrow. Please feel to reach out with any questions and if you see any problematic signs, I would be happy to discuss your child through a video consult over the Ontario Telehealth Network (OTN). Let’s work together to make the tough changes now for a better future.

Create your own Family Media Plan: