As a parent in today’s world, you’ve surely asked yourself these questions: How much screen time is too much? What should my child be watching? When do I limit their usage, and how?
These questions are especially important now, when so many activities are no longer available to us and screen time is crucial to stay connected. While technology is more readily available and can be a wonderful source of learning, even for children as young as 2, it should be monitored closely. Some downfalls of unsupervised technology use (and overuse) include:
- It may encourage a short attention span.
- It may expose children to content you deem inappropriate such as violence, drug and alcohol use, and sexuality.
- It may lead to less physical activity.
- It can lead to less face-to-face interaction time.
Although it sounds simple, limiting screen time is easier said than done. It is easy to let your child turn on the TV or hand them your phone to watch videos or play games when they complain of boredom.
So, while you cannot completely eliminate technology, there are ways to limit the daily use.
- Find alternatives. These could includes things such as playing board games, going to the park, or reading a book.
- Keep technology out of the dining room. Make your family meals full of conversation instead of scrolling. This is a wonderful way to find out about what your child is happy about or even struggling with.
- Don’t put a TV in your child’s room. This will allow you to monitor and talk with your child about the content they see on television.
- Limit screen time. Come up with what you think is an acceptable amount of weekly screen time for your child and stick to it.
- Interact instead of distract. If you typically use your phone to distract your child while you prepare and cook dinner, find an activity they can do to help you. Encourage them to spread sauce over noodles or help you measure milk. Older children can help by cutting vegetables. If you don’t have anything safe for your child to do while you prepare dinner, give them some stickers or crayons and paper so they can color.
If you’re unsure of an approximate time that your child should be using technology, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
- 18 months and younger should have no screen time or be exposed to any digital media.
- 2- to 5-year-olds can be introduced to screen time, but only for 1 hour a day.
- 6-year-olds and older can be determined by parents. Screen time should be calculated after school and homework, an hour of physical activity, meal times, and sleep.
Setting limits on technology use and social media is a start, but it’s important for your children to see you sticking to your own rules. Set a good example. Start by creating a space for cell phones and tablets to go while eating so that you aren’t tempted to check your own email. Use this technology-free time to have relaxed conversations with your child.