Limiting screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than 2 and recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than one or two hours a day. 

Despite that advice, screens time is second only to sleep as the thing our kids spend the most time doing, according to a study conducted by the National Institute on Media and Family.

I think most of us can agree: Advances in technology have made our world pretty amazing. But, with all the technology that’s available, there’s also the potential to go overboard.  

One Mayo Clinic article showed that over-exposure to screen time can lead to a variety of problems, including obesity, irregular sleep patterns, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance and violence. Excessive amounts of screen time can affect children’s social, emotional and even physical development. It’s important to set some limits.

Be aware

It’s our responsibility as parents to educate ourselves and to monitor and screen our children’s exposure to electronic media. 

Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) is an excellent resource designed for kids, parents and schools. On this website (and app) you can search movies, games, TV, books, apps, websites and music. You’ll find information and advice to help your family make responsible choices.  

Take inventory

What are your kids doing right now? Bonus points to you if your kids are outside playing or engrossed in imaginative, open-ended play. Even if they are, screens can be like magnets: Kids are soon drawn back into some kind of screen. 

Start paying attention to how much screen time your kids really do have in a day. While you’re at it, reflect on your own experiences. Your family may be spending more time in front of screens than you think, or would like to admit.

Set limits 

It’s OK for kids to hear the word “no.” Set limits, and most important, follow through. You may want to experiment with parental controls — features that are sometimes included with digital TV services, computer and video-gaming devices, tablets and phones. Parental controls can help you limit access to age-inappropriate content, set time limits and even track and monitor activity. Note: Some devices allow you to disable all in-app purchases. Check under “Settings.” 

Kids may find it hard to accept limits at first, but with fairness, consistency and dialog with your child — sharing the reasoning behind the limits we impose — your kids can develop crucial self-regulation and self-discipline strategies that will contribute to healthy habits as they grow and mature.

Be a role model  

Our kids are watching us and cuing into our behaviors, choices and actions. If we’re modeling appropriate and responsible uses of technology, children are likely to follow our lead. If we don’t, we’re setting ourselves up for a challenge.  

Let your child see you setting boundaries for yourself. If your 8-year-old is watching you text when you’re having dinner, you’re likely going to have a hard time discouraging that same behavior when she has her own cell phone.

The same goes for technology use in the car, in public settings and around your home. Set some time to unplug during the day as a family and as individuals.  

Detach from your smartphone, email, Facebook and Twitter. Focus your energy and attention on the individuals in your presence, or maybe even have some quiet moments of solitude (without posting your status)!

If we’re smart about our own technology use and if we’re proactive in our efforts to teach, guide and model responsible habits, we’ll be helping our young children as they grow and learn in our technology-driven world.


 

Megan Devine is a mother of four. She lives in Northeastern Minnesota. Write her at mdevine@mnparent.com.