Today’s article comes to us from Heather Viera. Heather Viera is a lifestyle expert and researcher for FamilyLivingToday.com. She is dedicated to achieving a balanced lifestyle, even with two small children and a full-time career. In the little free time she has, she enjoys hiking with her partner and taking her dog to the beach.
Technology infiltrates every part of modern life. It’s not a matter of if your child will work with technology one day but how much and in what capacity. However, you’ve probably already seen the downside of too much screen time on kids. Lack of physical exercise and irritability are only the tip of the iceberg. We’ve provided some tips to get you thinking and help you navigate parenting screen time.
When and How Much
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend any screen time for children under the age of 18 months. Starting at 18 months, high-quality programming can be beneficial but is in no way necessary to the healthy development of your child. For children ages two to five, keep screen time to one hour or less. There’s not a specific recommended time limit for children over the age of six, but screen time should be balanced with other activities.
Here are some general guidelines to help you decide the best way to monitor screen time in your home.
Be a Technology Role Model
Children learn from your example. If you monitor your own screen time, your child will learn to do so as well. Create designated tech-free times for your family and follow those rules yourself. It could be no phones at the dinner table or no screens after dinner. Read books, take walks as a family, and let your child see you enjoying activities that don’t involve a screen.
Children, especially young children, may not have a good grasp of time. Two hours of television or time on an iPad can feel like 15 minutes to them. It takes time to learn how to responsibly use technology. Limit your children’s access to times you’ve set aside and are available to monitor them.
With young children, limit their screen time to periods when you can watch with them. That way you can help them understand what they see and hear. Screen time should be something you do together until your children are over the age of six.
Decide on Limits and Content Rules
Laptops and iPads provide access to great educational information, but too much time can limit their social and physical development. Children crave boundaries even if they push against them. Decide on time limits, content rules, and technology-free times with your partner. Then, enforce them. Your children may fuss but knowing the rules and limits will benefit them in the end. Finally, stick to your rules.
Keep Access Age-Appropriate
Keep tabs on what your children are watching. For the youngest of children, ages 18 to 24 months, programs that teach numbers, letters, morals, and interpersonal skills can benefit your child.
As your children get older, make sure any websites they use or content they watch is age-appropriate. Explain to your child why it’s important to watch appropriate shows and how that fits into your family’s moral beliefs. That will help them understand why they need to be careful with what they watch. But, limit internet access and websites through your devices and third-party apps to prevent your child from stumbling upon inappropriate content.
Be Active Together
Family activities engage everyone. Throw a frisbee, play tag, or take up hiking. Find activities you can do together that will keep everyone moving. In the evening, pull out crayons or scissors so your children can move their hands and minds, but their bodies can start to wind down for the day.
Parenting has a steep learning curve. Technology will continue to change, and you’ll have to adjust your parenting to keep up. But your efforts give your child the chance to be happy, active, and healthy.