Managing your child’s screen time may seem like an unsurmountable task, however, when you breakdown the effort into small components, you will discover teaching your child healthy digital habits is easier than you thought. Read these five-easy steps to help you determine your goals about your child’s screen time, and streamline what on the surface seems like a complicated process.
- Step #1 Understand the risks of screen time: Have you noticed that pastimes you may have enjoyed as a child, such as: slipping slides, hopscotch, and kickball have faded away? The parks, playgrounds, and local neighborhood streets seem devoid of kids. One reason is children are spending time inside on digital devices more than ever. After all, sunlight is the anathema to screens and power supplies are in short supply outdoors. While technology offers many learning and entertainment opportunities for children, there are steep trade-offs. Lack of sunlight and vitamin D, minimal exercise, and less fresh air are all worrisome side-effects to kids’ heavy-digital lifestyles. Other concerns some parents may have are whether their child’s social skills are sacrificed as they spend more time online. Most upsetting of all is the fact that the more time a child spends online, the greater his exposure to online predators.
- Step #2 Screen time goals and rule-setting: Before you can manage your child’s screen time, you first must consider what an ideal amount of screen time is for your child. Every parent and child has unique digital requirements and thresholds, so this is a very personal decision. Ask yourself questions, such as: What kinds of technology do you welcome or would rather avoid having in your home? Is your goal for your child to have “digitally-free” times during the day, such as before bedtime? Is some digital content more valuable than others, and will you permit extended time limits for such content? Once your screen time rules are in place, you will want to have an idea of what your expectations are to see if you’re seeing results. If the new screen time approach and rules are effective, what changes do you expect to see in your child’s behavior, both at home and school?
- Step #3. A time and a place: There may be certain tasks you value over your child spending time online. Homework assignments, sports, piano lessons, household chores, baby sitting, etc. are just a few examples of the kinds of activities you may prioritize over your child’s screen time. Again, this is a highly personal decision – and an important one. For younger children, you may have a more regimented schedule in place. As kids get older, they gain self-discipline and responsibility. With this increased maturity, they may be better equipped to self-manage their screen time. One important message to impart is that screen time is a privilege – as all privileges, it is best when earned.
- Step #4. Screen-free zones: Limiting devices in your child’s bedroom is a great way to minimize digital temptations, particularly during those times when your child thrives on fewer distractions, such as before bedtime. Numerous studies suggest that the light emitted by screens may disrupt the release of the hormone melatonin, crucial to maintaining and regulating our sleep-wake cycle. As well, time spent on screens versus other going to bed “rituals,” such as brushing teeth, reading a book, and relaxing may negatively impact a child’s ability to fall to sleep at a decent hour, and cause an overall poorer night’s sleep – and crankier morning!
- Step #5. You have options: You don’t have eyes on the back of your head. Just as kids may sneak an extra cookie from the cookie jar time to time; they may sneak extra screen time when they think you aren’t looking. No parent wants to get into a tug-of-war over their child’s electronic device, fortunately there are many ways to use technology to help manage your child’s screen time without getting physical. Aside from setting passwords or codes, you can incorporate parental control software by companies such as Familoop.
We hope these 5 simple steps will put you on the path to managing your child’s screen time in an easy-breezy way. If you found this article helpful, check out a related Familoop article, Six Parenting Tips to Develop Healthy Digital Skills.