Technology is everywhere in today’s society. It’s easy to set your child down in front of a television show while you try to get things done, or to offer your child a tablet to help entertain them while you’re out in public, but the controversy over how screen time can impact your kids makes many parents reluctant to use that method of entertainment. How do you decide what’s right for your children? While each family will come to a decision based on their personal values, there are some clear recommendations that can make it easier to shape those screen time decisions.
Will Limiting Screen Time Hurt Needed Skills?
In a technology-based society, there are plenty of skills that children will need to have in order to operate effectively in school, at work, and wherever life may take them. Kindergarteners, for example, are encouraged to know how to use a mouse in order to interact with computers at school. Kids can also benefit from learning how to use common apps and services they may eventually need in everyday life. While limiting screen time may seem counterintuitive in this sense, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be deficient when they head off to school. Most children pick up technology-related skills quickly when they’re exposed to them in a classroom setting.
Limiting Screen Time
Before the age of 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children shouldn’t be watching television at all. Between 2 and 5, an hour or less per day is more than adequate screen viewing–and kids should be supervised by parents viewing the content with them to discuss what they’re seeing. For older kids, it’s important to stick with consistent time limits on all media, making sure that whether it be television, internet-surfing, video games, or phone usage, it does not get in the way of sleep, physical activity, or other healthy behaviors. It is clear, however, that excess screen time continues to have a negative impact on the academic and behavioral performance of many children.
In order to find that critical screen time balance for your family, make sure you’re setting clear boundaries. While your guidelines will need to fit your family’s needs, try some of these rules:
- Set clear screen-free times as a family: during meal times or other family activities, for example, all devices should be put away.
- Make sure your child has completed other activities–reading, chores, playing outside–each day before settling down with a video game or television program.
- Have a specific hour each evening when devices are turned off. Do not allow cell phones or other electronics in bedrooms.
- Abide by the rules yourself! That doesn’t mean you can’t spend some time on your phone after the kids are in bed for the night, but it does mean that if your kids have to put their phones down, you should, too.
Setting screen time guidelines is an ongoing process for your family. What’s appropriate when your children are young may change as they get older–and being willing to adapt is the hallmark of an engaged parent. If you have more questions about how screen time can impact your kids, contact us today.