The verdict is in: large amounts of screen time have a multiplicity of negative effects on children and adults.
It’s been extensively researched and there is no question about the negative effects. What can parents do to minimize the impact and amount of screen time our children are exposed to?
- The first thing parents can do is to disconnect themselves and set the standard for their children. Unfortunately, too many mothers and fathers sit next to their infant or young children engrossed in his or her phone/iPad/computer as she texts, games or surfs, completely ignoring the needs of their children. As the old saying goes “Practice what you preach.”
- Learn about the various technologies which your children are using. You will understand how the technology your children are using will affect them. This will also help you as you discuss in discussing their technology usage with them.
- Parents should talk to their children regularly about their screen time usage. Ask questions and listen carefully. Share with them your own experiences about technology to learn and develop a balance together.
- Educate children about the negative impact of advertising, lack of privacy, cyber bullying, identity theft, texting and sexting, computer security and the effects of pornography and violence on the young developing mind. Arm them with the knowledge to better understand how technology affects their lives, both, positively and negatively.
- Agree as a family on the amount of time for screen usage that works for the whole family and how screen time will be measured. Screen time should never interfere with any other activity that the family may typically do together (i.e. dinner time, family outings, homework, etc.) The American Academic of Pediatrics recommends less than 2 hours of screen time daily. Children under the age of two should not be exposed to any screen time.
- Keep televisions, computers and other digital devices out of bedrooms where they cannot be monitored by caregivers. Set a time around bedtime where all devices are turned off and stored.
- Add cable and internet site blockers and filters to your computer and other digital devices including your television.
- Two of my teenage daughters have tried the line “You don’t trust me!” around the issues of excessive screen time. We discussed the difference between trust and safety. I used the analogy about how door locks don’t keep people in, they keep unwanted people out. Thus, we have set limits (the door locks) on who can come into our home to minimize the possibility of someone potentially harming us. This helped them to understand why we want to manage and limit the usage of technology and media.
- Be transparent about your media monitoring. Children will trust that you want them to be safe as they use technology.
The Intermountain LiVe Well
program has some great ideas to get you started down the path of limiting screentime. There are also fun ways to get the family on board with monitoring time.