How to Effectively Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time
Why is screen time a matter of concern?
Technology has made a virtually “limitless” selection of what to watch or to play and your child could be suffering consequences. Whatever your motivations are for exposing your child to smartphones and other interactive technologies other than the TV, the long term damage could be much greater than was previously thought. Many parents expose their children to technology in hopes that it will hone their brain to be more attentive, more focused or even to make sure that their children are more advanced than other kids in terms of cognitive or technical ability.
- Screen time should be age appropriate. Psychology Today cited from birth to age three are the most vulnerable ages. This is the period for crucial learning which must come from external stimuli and not from virtual learning. Once kids are introduced to screen-time at these ages, it can do more harm than good and stunt their emotional and cognitive development. Simply put – young brains do not need them, a child’s brain at this stage needs to develop focus and attention at their own rate and not the technological speed of an app.
- Screen time can create addiction. Screen time has a similar effect as heroine or cocaine, in an article by the New York Post. The similarity of abused substances and screen time’s effect on a child’s brain is uncannily similar. The brain is found to increase dopamine levels (feel-good neurotransmitters) in the brain.
If your child’s screen time has gone too far, then you should consider getting in touch with a specialist and consult on how to get your child back on track. For parents who are confident that they can still manage their child’s screen time here are a few tips:
- Walk the Talk. Your kids will definitely not follow you if you allow them too much leeway because you can’t get through a day without your tablet or laptop. Be the role model and unplug.
- Spend more Time with them. Some parents give iPads and tablets or smartphones to their kids to keep them quiet while they bustle away at work or while they are busy with other stuff. Your kids need your time and attention. It is something they need from you while they are growing up. These precious years will fly by so fast and soon they will be leaving home. Cherish every moment of these growing-up years. They only happen once.
- Family meal time should be Quality Time. How many times have you eaten your meals with your phones beeping or taking your dinner alone because people are too busy to have meals together? Be the parent. Set rules and have everybody together for dinner and all phones off or on silent mode – no excuses. Ask them how their day at school was, tell them about yours. Maybe plan a family outing. You might learn something new and interesting through these conversations.
- Use parental lock and tracking apps. You can use a parental lock for your kids and also turn off the internet connection. Check out iGame Mom’s article on the top apps to control your child’s screen time.
- Extreme Parenting- hand over those phones. If your child’s addiction (including your tweens, if any) have crossed the line, then talk to them about handing over their phones. Getting your child’s phone is not a simple said-and-done Task.org tells us of the effects of taking a teen’s phone and how crucial it is for a parent to set expectations such as “no checking on messages” or browser history. Give your child the same respect as you would expect from them. Take away the phone but respect their privacy and let them know you trust them. For toddlers you can try explaining to them in simple terms what a smartphone can do to them if they use it too much and not listen to you.
Screen Time According to Age (According to American Academy of Pediatrics)
- 18 months and younger – no screen time
- 2-5 – 1 hour screen time
- 6 years and older – limit digital media to left-over time. Meaning sleep time should not be reduced; or sports time and other social activities should not be sacrificed or reduced over screen time. You know you have a problem if sleep and other activities are sacrificed to gain more screen time.
You know your children from the day they were born. If you find yourself wondering where that bright and smart child has gone while looking at your screen-addicted kids, then it is time to make a change. You are a great parent, do not feel guilty; you can handle the issue of screen time. It is a new and emerging issue that has become a major concern for parents – but parental guilt can arise from this. No one has all of the answers. However, tough love now is always better than tough love later.
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