How do you feel when someone brings up the topic of screen time? Do you automatically squirm? Is it fear of judgement or a feeling of guilt? There are just some parenting topics which you automatically wish you weren’t part of. The subject of screen time is one which floats around often. We hear many studies of the benefits but also the negatives of it. Which articles to believe can, like most cases in parenting leave us even more confused.
Screen time has now become a huge part of everyone’s lives regardless of age. We are now carrying multiple devices from smartphones to tablets to smartwatches and smart TV’s. Our children are now using screen technology to learn in school with the help of educational resources such as Mathletics and Reading Eggs.
Many mums and dads feel a massive amount of guilt for allowing their kids to be entertained by a screen but know full well how useful it can be – especially when used as a distraction for older kids while dealing with their younger siblings, or to keep kids occupied on a road or plane trip.
Experts have stated that there should be no screen time for kids under the age of two, and for older kids no more than 1 hour a day. Whether or not this is achievable for most parents is another story.
With parenting you just ‘gotta do what you got to do’ but managing screen time so that it becomes less of a focus in your family and implementing rules around it could be worth looking into.
Set time limits – this is a great way to break down usage and discourage prolonged periods of use. If you’re allowing your kid an hour a day of screen usage, then try splitting that overall time into smaller time periods. For example, you could trial implementing a strategy where they use their screen for only 20 minutes at a time and after that they have to stop for a break and do something else.
Help your kids choose quality shows and games – have a chat to your kids about what they’re watching or playing on their tablet, and discuss which of them is a better use of their screen time. Some parents swear by creating a hierarchy of content – can non-educational ‘fun’ games be saved for special occasions and targeted learning programmes, such as arithmetic or spelling games be prioritised for everyday use?
Join kids for screen time – rather than letting kids see their screen as a solo activity, try getting in on the action and making it a team event. Watching and playing together makes the activity much more sociable and also means that when siblings are involved there are less fights over who has the next turn on the iPad!
Set an example – This one can be difficult. A huge part of daily life is done online that we can unintentionally be buried in our phones much of the day. Ordering weekly groceries, online shopping, internet banking, emails and work duties not to mention keeping up with school newsletters, making after school arrangements for children and of course the social side. However, it can be hard for a child to understand why they should be limited to screen time when we are not.
Be the Parent – It’s our job to encourage healthy behaviours and limit unhealthy ones, and sometimes this means you have to be the world’s biggest ogre and make unpopular decisions. When making these tough decisions for your kids always go the next step of explaining why you’ve made the decision – this will help them understand, follow through on the advice and someday maybe even choose the solution for themselves.
The important thing to remember is that screens aren’t always bad and in a pinch can save the day – but moderation of screen time is key for your kids’ healthy development and ensuring they stay active.