One of the biggest issues with social media is the amount of time that it involves spent focusing on a screen. Many users have become aware of the impact that this can have on health. Known as ‘computer vision syndrome’, prolonged screen exposure can cause eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision. While these symptoms can be easily treated, it’s important to encourage children to take regular breaks from their devices. But distracting a child’s inquisitive eyes from the screen can be a challenge sometimes. Instead of spending rainy weekends indoors, dig out your kid's waterproofs and encourage them to get out and explore nature.

When we think about the good old days of our childhood, images of playing outside for hours on end with our friends, begging our parents to stay outside for an extra half hour, and getting muddy without caring all spring to mind. Nowadays, technology plays a significant role in our children’s everyday lives, making their experiences different to ours. Although mobile phones, game consoles, and the internet allow them to entertain themselves for hours on end, spending time outdoors and socialising with their friends in person is very important.

More youngsters are engaging with some form of social app these days. While there are both positive and negative factors rooted in the idea of children on social media, it’s up to a parent to make the call on how and if their children should use it. As a result, it has become a divisive topic. Is there a way to strike a balance for our ever-social children?

Social media, screen time, and health concerns
As these devices are more accessible than ever before, kids are spending more time focused on a screen with little downtime. Studies have found evidence to support the claim that obesity is linked to excessive screen time, through both inactivity and poor diets. The evidence suggests that increased screen time could even increase the likelihood of obesity in later life. In 2019, around 20.2% of children between the ages of 10-11 years old were overweight. As for children between the ages of 4-5 years old, 12.9% are found to be overweight.

Another health-related issue that is linked to excessive screen time include difficulty sleeping. This is because the light which is emitted from many digital devices can interfere with the brain’s sleep cycle, triggering insomnia.

Networking skills from a young age

It’s not all bad though. The concept of social media is to bring people together. It has evolved the way we stay in touch with both people we care about and issues in the wider world. For children, there are benefits of being a part of such networks, as it can have a positive impact on teaching them how to interact with their peers. Sites such as Kidzworld, Grom Social, and Yoursphere are all leading examples of how social media can be used to generating a useful community for kids.

Social media helps spread awareness of issues that society is faced with. For example, concerns over poor mental health in children has become more apparent in society over the years. Thanks to the power of social media spreading awareness of this issue and the important days dedicated to tackling this, such as World Mental Health Day, children are educated on the importance of ‘speaking up’ if ever they feel they need it.

The younger generation is also growing up in a highly digitised climate. In this way, exposure to social media can equip them with the necessary skills for the world that they will inherit. Digital technology has arisen across all areas of life at an alarming rate, and our kids will need to be prepared for an ever-advancing world.

Relationships — a positive and negative influence
In a world before widespread access to social media, developing relationships was a process reserved for real life. However, as these networks began to emerge, they provided a new way to create new connections and relationships. Observations into children’s behaviour development as a result of social media has revealed a potential increase in a child’s ability to be empathetic. It has also highlighted an improved focus on solidifying new relationships.

Youngsters are growing up in a world where we stay in touch with friends and family by ‘liking’ and commenting on updates. However, this can lead to over-use and even a reliance on these platforms for maintaining such relationships. This can affect a child’s perception of what a real human relationship is. Contrarily, technology can be used to teach empathy, and some of the content that a child sees online can help to teach compassion to a younger audience.

With this said, why not take this time at home to teach your kids some of the games you enjoyed as a child? From hopscotch to skipping rope games, we take a look back at the good old days and reminisce about some of the games that made our childhood that extra bit special.

1. Capture the flag
You might remember this best from P.E. lessons or sports days. Capture the flag was one of the best and most competitive games from our childhood. Split between two teams, the players think of tactical ways to enter their opposing team’s zones and do as the name of the game suggests—capture the flag (or beanbag, stick, sock—anything really!)

The first person to capture the flag wins for their team! If they get tagged by one of the opposition players, however, a forfeit must be done—usually 5 star jumps or push ups—before returning back to their own zone and starting again.

2. Skipping rope
Who would have thought a piece of rope would be all you need to make an entire game? From single skipping ropes to double skipping ropes and jumping to old nursery rhymes such as Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, competing against our friends for who can skip the longest never got old.

3. Pooh sticks
Despite the odd-sounding name, pooh sticks is another basic yet competitive game we all enjoyed. Whether it was played with our friends, grandparents, or siblings, this game is something for all ages to take part in. The game was simple—to each throw a stick over a bridge and see whose floats down the river to the other side of the bridge the fastest.

4. Marbles
There are an endless number of games to play with marbles, but probably the most common one to be passed down through the generations involved a circle, marbles of course, and accuracy. The players had to draw a circle and place the marbles in the centre, usually in an ‘X’ shape. Then, with the spare marbles, each player must flick or role a marble towards the marbles in the circle and try knocking one out. If they do so, they get a point!

5. Hopscotch
Another classic game is hopscotch, which triggers nostalgia for many of us adults. By drawing the classic hopscotch diagram on the ground with chalk and throwing a bean bag on a particular number square, hours of fun can be achieved. By jumping with one leg, then two, then repeating this process the further up the diagram you jump, you have yet another fun and basic game to pass on to your children.

There are probably a variety of other games that you used to play as a child too—some that were unique to your neighbourhood and childhood friends. To help encourage the generations after us to put the controller down and play outside, teach them some of your old, nostalgic favourites from when you were a youngster!

The impact of social media on children can be managed. As we have explored, technology can be useful for developing a wider understanding of the world. Too much of anything is bad, so finding the correct balance between having social media in our lives without letting it take over is something we must educate the younger generations on.


Author's Bio: 

Brooke McDonald