Tips for Managing Screen Time for Kids
Our parents nagged us about watching too much TV – a quaint concept in this age of ubiquitous smartphone use. Many of us use our smartphones for most of our waking hours, and our kids typically want to do the same. But managing our kids' screen time – the time spent using devices such as computers, tablets, TVs or video game consoles – can be a touchy subject, and a difficult one for parents to tackle. How much time is healthy? What is considered too much screen time? How do you ensure your kids stay connected to the real world? Here’s a guide to tackling this tough topic:
- Understanding Screen Time Recommendations: According to the National Library of Medicine, the average American child spends five to seven hours per day in front of a screen, with three of those hours watching television. This is far more than the recommended time limits of one to two hours per day for children over 2, and no time at all for children under the age of 2.
- Curb Device Access: Set clear time limits, and enforce these limits on a regular basis. You can remove televisions and video game consoles from bedrooms to create a distraction-free sleeping environment, and you can require your child to put their phone in a basket before going to their bedroom at night. Of course, being a good role model is critical; limit your screen time as much as possible, particularly around your children.
- Encourage Face-to-Face Time: Some experts say that parents should encourage their children to spend face-to-face time with peers, rather than merely texting or communicating via social media in an isolated environment. Those important peer group interactions for kids are similar in importance to the face-time and conversations upon which infants and toddlers rely to develop social and interpersonal skills. These interactions are just as important to growing children, tweens and teenagers through the different stages of their development.
- Simplify the Transition: If children have been granted a lot of screen time in the past, they may view a reduction as punishment. There are lots of fun, family-friendly activities for decreasing and managing screen-time. Challenge the family to go without television, or partake in a low amount of screen time, for one day or a full week, or start a board game and activity night on a particular day of the week. Families can also participate in health-boosting physical activities together, such as after-dinner walks. With some creativity and flexibility, a fun transition means kids won't mind the changes as much and your family will be brought closer closer together.