How much time does your child waste glued to a screen? Devices do lure kids (and many parents!) like moths to the flame. While we couldn’t imagine today’s lifestyle without smart technology, excessive use of electronics can be harmful.
Do you stand the chance of limiting your little digital native’s screen time or should you simply throw up your hands in despair? Before you admit defeat and give in, explore some helpful options you may not have thought of before. You may still live to see the day when your kid reaches for a book or ball instead of their phone. In the words of the staff of Uptown Jungle Chandler: the younger kids are, the less technology they should have in their lives.
First things first, how do you even know if your child is spending more time online than they should? While it’s hard to tell exactly and it can depend on several factors (the needs of a 2-year-old and a 12-year-old are completely different), there are some general guidelines recommended by the experts.
If your little one is under the age of 2, it probably isn’t advisable for them to spend any time in front of the screen. Next, American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children between the ages of 2 and 5 can get some screen time, but it should be very limited: on weekdays, they should get an hour, and on weekends, it could be up to three hours. When it comes to older children, you can be a bit more lenient, as long as their school, social life, and physical activities don’t suffer because of technology.
Here are some of the potential downsides of unregulated screen time:
- Influence on opinions and behaviors: People often emulate what they see, and this is especially true of young, impressionable minds. It’s easy to lose sight of what your children do online if they do it too often and for too long. This means that they can come in contact with potentially harmful influences.
- Detrimental physical impact: Children need both mental stimulation and physical activity to develop and thrive. Technology meets only one of these needs, and it usually does so poorly. Too much screen time means less time playing and being active, which can lead to obesity as well as eye and back problems.
- Lower school performance: Kids sometimes get too distracted to study, so their test scores drop. Their attention span gets shorter because they’re used to instant gratification. Plus, staring at a screen for too long sometimes leads to insomnia, which also affects their concentration negatively.
Here are a few things that may help:
- Encourage physical activity: When physically active, children can have loads of fun while also growing stronger and more dexterous. Promote exercise, especially outdoors and with peers.
- Be direct about your expectations: Set out clear rules and stick to them. Explain why you’re imposing these rules. Teach your kids that technology should be used in moderation.
- Put devices away: Out of sight, out of mind. You can create phone-free zones at home and even put up signs to make it more playful. Or you can just keep phones hidden away in a drawer while they’re not in use so kids don’t just reach out for them every time they’re bored.
- Have fun together: Spend quality time together as often as you can. Take trips, go on walks, play games, and engage in other pastimes that you and your kids enjoy. Not only will you reduce the time spent in front of screens, but you’ll also bond as a family.