Kids seem to be getting into technology earlier than ever before. It seems like the minute they can hold a smartphone, they are watching cartoons via YouTube and playing simple games. And the television, a long time source of entertainment for youngsters, is even more addicting with the ability to “binge-watch” anything they want, for hours at a time.
Turns out, all of this “screen time” is not that great for kids. Sure there are educational programs and games that are beneficial, but so is fresh air and sunshine. Unstructured playtime is better for the developing brain of a child. Children are more likely to learn and remember information from activities than from a video.
How can you limit the amount of time your child is looking at a screen and encourage them to be more active?
The key is setting up and following through with a specific routine that gives children plenty of time to read and play but limits screen time. This may be hard to do at first, especially if your children have already developed habits with television and devices.
With children under the age of two, it’s important that they are only watching high-quality, age-appropriate videos with you. Children this young should not be using devices alone. As your child grows, you’ll need to be aware of what they are watching. Use parental controls and filters to be sure they don’t accidentally access content that isn’t appropriate.
Some parents have successfully limited time with media devices by having children earn the time. This can be done in fifteen-minute increments for completed homework or specific chores. Other parents use activity away from media devices in exchange for time with the device. For example, one hour of outside playtime is equal to 30 minutes with the iPad or television. Still other parents set specific times that use of the smartphone or tablets are allowed, for example, 1 hour after dinner.
There is no “one size fits all” solution to the problem of excess screen time. Each family has their own unique routines and habits. The important thing to remember as a parent is to be involved.
- Keep your child close by when they are on the internet.
- Know what your child is watching, watch episodes with them.
- Be aware of the games your child is playing, try them out for yourself to be sure they are age-appropriate.
- Make sure your child’s phone and social friends are kids they know personally. Occasionally check the “friends lists” and ask how your child knows the person.
- Consider using apps that limit the amount of time your child can be “on” the device. Many cellular phone companies have family limits available to help.
- Set and enforce screentime limits. Especially at the dinner table and before bed. Don’t allow children to charge their phones in their bedrooms at night so they won’t be tempted to pick up the phone when they should be sleeping.
- Encourage “digital literacy.” Google has set up a free learning program that helps teach children about internet safety, cyberbullying and more. Click this link to access the information.
The digital age has brought with it a whole host of new challenges. Making sure your child balances a healthy social life and outdoor activities with internet usage is just one of those challenges. By starting and enforcing good habits early, you’ll be helping your child make good choices.