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Screen time and children: How to guide your child Part2

Screen time and eating

Nowadays, many children need screens to eat food.

Although the intention might be to make the picky eater eat more food, this habit is very bad for your child. It’s important to stop the kids using gadgets or watching TV during mealtime as distracted eating has several side effects.

What is distracted eating in children?

Distracted eating in children refers to children eating food without focusing on what goes into our mouth. Their mind will be distracted as they may be reading a book, watching television, or playing games while eating food.  Distracted eating is the opposite of intentional eating, where they enjoy their meal and appreciate what they eat. In other words, during distracted eating, the children miss the track of quantity and quality of food.

Why does distracted Eating lead to overfeeding?

Appetite isn’t the only factor that influences the quantity of eating. Focusing on what you eat improves healthy eating and digestion. After one starts eating, the brain takes 20 minutes to process the procedure and sending out “I am full” signals that turn off appetite. Therefore, distracted eating and eating fast can result in consuming many more calories than you need in 20 minutes.

Side-effects of feeding with screen-time

Excessive screen time and unhealthy eating behavior in schoolchildren are found to related. Eating while distracted by a screen holds various negative impacts on the child. 

  • Increase of obesity: Eating while distracted by a screen makes it difficult to pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. This leads to overeating. Overeating increases the chances of obesity and related health issues. 
  • Increase of malnutrition: Children, especially toddlers who have access to screen all day, have a tendency to snack whenever they watch TV or Tablets. They more likely will skip the meals or refuse to eat the main course of food in time.  This may lead to malnutrition. 

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is a practice of enjoying the meals by attaining the taste, texture, and flavor of food. Mindful eating:

  • Reduce overeating
  • Encourage the child to chew well the food and, thereby, improves the digestion
  • Help the kids to enjoy the smell taste flavor and appearance of the food in the fullest
  • Most importantly keep them away from unhealthy weight 

How to move your child towards mindful eating

The first step is to avoid all possible distraction during meals time.  Be strict in implying the rule of no screens, no toys, and no books in the dining table.

  • Encourage family eating. It not only helps to take a successful step towards mindful eating but also helps to effectively introduce new foods to the kids. 
  • Make sure the child takes 20 minutes to eat his usual meal
  • If the child tends to eat fast, ask him to eat with less preferred hand. That is if the kid is left-handed ask him to use right hand to hold the fork and vice versa. 
  • Ask the child to chew the food well and take small bites or spoons at a time

Tips on proper way to feed a child

Once the baby turns six months, you have to start feeding him solid food along with the breast milk to meet their increased need for proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Here are a few factors to taken care of while feeding the child

  • When it’s time to start solid food, you should continue feeding them breast milk.  However, you should feed the solid food first then after an interval feeds them breast milk. Remember, only if their stomach is not full, they will try new tastes. 
  • Introduce one new food at a time and continue feeding it for two-three days. This will help you to know if the child has no allergic issues with that food.
  • While introducing a new food, let them start with a small quantity
  • Avoid too much salt and sugar and spices for toddler’s food
  • Make sure the food prepared for the toddler is nutritious, yummy and easily digestible.
  • Never compel the child to eat food they don’t like 
  • Never compel the child to eat more if he says he is “full.”
  • Avoid food that causes choking
  • Never give them junk food. It not only negatively affects their appetite but also brings health issues. Remember, introducing a good choice and a bad choice of food to your child is purely your decision. 
  • Always try to give the toddler food prepared in the home 
  • Choose healthy snacks freshly made for the snack times
  • Encourage the habit of drinking pure water frequently throughout the day.
  • Let the child use a baby-sized spoon, cups and plates

Setting up healthy family practices and expectations

Making changes to your family routine is possible at any time. Encourage a balanced diet, plenty of movement, and limited screen time.

Your and your families healthy routines can include:

creating screen-free mealtimes. Eating snacks or meals while watching TV results in children consuming more sweet drinks and junk foods, and fewer fruits and vegetables, likely due to junk food advertising, mindless eating, and increased snacking. Turning off screens and focusing on family mealtimes can help even very young children learn about socializing

eating meals as a family, with everyone eating the same food. Evidence suggests parents’ eating and role modelling are important influences on children’s food intakes. Eating together at any meal or snack time lets parents role-model eating and enjoying healthy foods. It also enables parents to set expectations around eating – like encouraging children to eat to their appetite, rather than to finish their plate

switching off the TV/screen and setting screen time limits. It can be easy to get into the habit of turning the TV on before breakfast or after dinner every day or leaving it on when a show is finished. But “background TV” reduces children’s’ attention spans during playtime and lowers the quality of parent-child interactions. Although it might sound obvious, setting screen time rules will reduce children’s time in front of the screen. Try setting a screen time limit, having one or two screen-free days per week (this includes the whole family), or only allowing recreational screen time on weekends

structuring regular family activities around physical activity rather than screen time. Although watching TV shows and movies together is recommended to help children understand what they’re seeing, it can unintentionally ingrain screen time habits as normal family practice. Try replacing things like watching a movie together with a family bike ride or an outing to the park. This is an easy way to reduce overall screen time, and parents and young children who participate in physical activity together are more active all round.

Out of sight, out of mind

Another strategy is to set up your home environment, so it encourages healthy behaviors, and minimizes temptations for unhealthy ones. For example:

having active play equipment (like balls, bats, and bikes) readily available to children. Among older children, having easier access to equipment within their home prompts more physical activity. Providing lots of different types of equipment, which can be borrowed or shared between families, is even better

having screen-free bedrooms, and putting electronic devices out of sight in living areas. Having a TV in the room where a child sleeps, not surprisingly, results in children watching more TV and creates another thing parents need to police. By removing the cues to engage in these behaviors, children are less likely to want to participate in them

filling your fridge and pantry with foods you want your child and family to eat. The foods available at home are associated with children’s diet quality. Fresh fruit, cut vegetables, yoghurt, cheese, wholegrain breads and unsweetened breakfast cereals are good choices. Limiting junk food in the home means children simply have to choose between healthy options.

Making big changes to family routine can seem overwhelming, so starting with something achievable from wherever your family is at can make the changes more manageable for everyone. Try nominating one screen-free day, having one additional family meal, or planning one additional outdoor family activity per week – and then build on your success.

Also, set an example. Consider that your child is watching you for cues on when it’s OK to use screens and how to use them.

Managing your child’s use of screens and media will be an ongoing challenge. But by developing household rules — and revisiting them as your child grows — you can help ensure a safe experience.