In today’s time and age, keeping your children away from the screens and managing their screen time seems like a daunting task. Screens are everywhere; truth be told, it is getting difficult to manage screen time for us, let alone our kids. How can you say confront your child about their screen time with a straight face when your phone is glued to your hand?
To make it even more complicated, while screen time can be damaging to your child’s development, at the same time, there is content that can be educational and actually help them with their developmental progress. Miss Rachel and Bluey, I am looking at you. So what can you do to successfully manage your child’s screen time?
Why is screen time such a taboo?
Sometimes it can be challenging to understand why screen time is that dangerous for your children, especially when we spend so much time interacting with our screens, from computers for work or leisure to our smartphones and gaming systems. According to various research, too much screen time can lead to:
- Poor sleep patterns
- Behaviour problems
- Developmental delays (language and social skills)
- Attention problems
- Blurred vision
- Problems with eyes
But, even though we are all aware of the problems too much screen time can cause, at the same time, there are benefits some types of screen time can bring to your children. If properly managed, screen time doesn’t have to be such a taboo, and it can even become an effective parenting tool. By interacting with your child during their screen time, you can manage what they are watching, help them understand what they are seeing, and put it in the proper context. This will help your child avoid passive screen time while giving you peace of mind.
Create healthy screen time habits
The American Academy of Pediatrics has given guidance to parents for media use with the children’s age in mind. For example, media use is discouraged for children younger than two years, and for children between ages 2 to 5, they suggest limiting screen time to one hour a day. But as we all know, the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work well for every child. Not only is every child different, but so are the circumstances they are growing up in, adjust the rules accordingly. It is up to you to decide how much screen time you will let your child have and what is appropriate in your situation.
What is important is to ensure they experience quality material that you will control instead of them choosing overstimulating shows that might cause behavioural problems and attention disorders. For example, you can watch the shows together so you can help them understand what they are watching and how it applies in real life. At the same time, ensure the screen time doesn’t replace the other family activities, outdoor and indoor playing, reading or spending quality time together.
Create clear rules and restriction
Before creating rules about screen time, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want the time limit to be?
- Will the time limit be different on weekends and holidays?
- Will you introduce tech-free days?
- When will they be allowed to have screen time? For example, will it be after they finish homework, before dinner or before bed?
- Do they need to ask you first, or would it be easier to determine the set time when they can use it by themself?
- Where can they use it? Are they limited to a certain room, like a living room?
- What can they access? Can they play games, watch shows, create videos, or code?
Answering these questions will allow you to have a clearer idea about the rules and restrictions you want to establish and make it easier for kids to follow them.
Just remember, if you decide to establish time limits, not all children respond to it the same. While some children respond better to set time limits, such as “You can use the tablet for one hour, we will set the alarm to remind you”, others need to finish their activity first. For example, my daughter needs to finish her activity first, so we set the alarm to ring 10 min before the end of one hour limit and tell her: “When the alarm rings, you can finish this level, or your show ends before you need to turn off the tablet”. Adjust the rules for your child, and the process will be easier for everyone.
Don’t forget you are their role model
It is foolish to expect your child to follow these rules and restrictions if they can see you completely ignoring them. Of course, it is not reasonable for you and your child to have the same screen time limitations, but at the same time, you need to lead by example. Set the rule of the tech-free time for you also, stop using the TV as background noise and stop grabbing your phone every time you have a free second.
Practice good habits yourself. Be completely present when spending time with family and show your kind they can have fun also by spending time outdoors, reading books, discovering new hobbies and spending time away from screens. In today’s busy world, I think that is a lesson all of us need to learn.
Know what you are dealing with
Today’s kids are born tech-savvy. They are exposed to new technologies from birth, making them more savvy than most adults who have had to learn to use technology later in their lives.
As a parent, you must teach your child about online risks, which you can only do if you also understand them. This is why it is essential you stay up-to-date on the latest advancements, whether it is social media platforms, apps or games. Know what tv shows, games and apps your children want and preview them before you allow your child access to them.
It is becoming harder than ever to avoid giving your children access to screens, especially when screens can now fit in the palm of our hand. Instead, you should focus on ensuring you teach your kids about the dangers and benefits of screen time and show them the alternatives. Good balance is always the key. Most importantly, provide them with enough information so they can make smart decisions.