Years ago, when determining how much television children should watch, the American Academy for Pediatrics advised this guideline: no more than 2 hours of television for children two-years old and above, and no television at all for children less than two-years old.
Considering applying this same guideline in the digital age seems downright impossible. Can you imagine your tween regimented to a strict two-hours of screen time per day? And how could you even track screen time, as so many kids multi-task, checking their Faceboook or texting with friends while they do their homework? As consequence, the American Academy for Pediatrics altered their advisement to: no more than two hours of “entertainment media” per day. Still sounds impossible, right? Don’t laugh; just incorporate these 9 parenting skills for the digital age and your child or teen will be on track to curb screen time and enjoy a more well-rounded adolescence.
- They look to you. You’re the role model. Are you constantly on your smartphone? Is the first thing you do after work is plop on the couch and watch television? Your actions send a message. This is parenting skill 101.
- Never use screens as a crutch. A digital device is the modern-day pacifier. You see it all the time. At a restaurant, a kid acts up and his parent quiets-him with his smart phone. Children must learn valuable skills, such as how to keep oneself occupied when bored; or if upset or angry, how to deal with their emotional outbursts without the distraction of the Internet.
- You know where your kids are; do you know what your kids are on? Parents stay abreast of where their kids hang out after school. Likewise, the online environment must be treated as any other environment. Know what kinds of websites and social networks your kids visit at all times.
- Face-to-face communication. Children’s growing brains are enriched by face-to-face communication. Need to chat with the next door neighbor? Knock on their door rather than sending an email. Create opportunities for your kids - as well as yourself - to prioritize real communication over texting, emailing, or skyping.
- Set limits. You likely set limits as to how many sweets you allow your child to eat, or how late they stay up. Likewise, technology is a privilege and must be given limits to its use.
- Playtime is smart! Playing with friends not only encourages exercise, it helps foster interpersonal skills and brain development.
- Media is not a babysitter. This parenting skill applies particularly to younger kids. When your child is on a digital device, sit there next to them. Ask questions and offer reactions. Your involvement in the digital activity will get their brain synapses firing - so they are not simply spoon fed media, but actively absorbed in the process.
- There will be mistakes. The milk gets spilled, the cat is let out, the car gets dented… Accidents happen. You can bet accidents will happen online, too. When your child or teen makes a mistake online, use it as a “teachable moment.” Educate your child at the appropriate age about sexting, cyberbullying, dating scams, and online predators.
- Online reputation. Parents have always discussed with their child about personal reputation. Who you hang out with and who you date influences your reputation. Similarly, what you do - and share - online impacts your teen’s reputation. Have a chat with them about what kind of personal details are permitted to be posted (pictures with friends, interests, etc.) and what details must be excluded (where they live, financial information, or photos revealing private body parts).
You’re not alone! Discover the many ways to strengthen your parenting skills and use parental control software at its best, so that you and your family enjoy a happier, safer, and more harmonious life with technology.