Most kids I've met love screen time. I don't know about yours, by if my kids aren't hooked up, they're asking to plug themselves in. As a mother, I can see the benefits of screen time for kids (not least, a bit of peace and quiet for me.)
But what about our kids' brains? I worry that young brains get hooked on screen time (not to mention my own, older brain!)
Plus I notice that there's often an undercurrent of stress surrounding screen time. When can we have more? Can I play longer? The screaming and crying when it's over.
We've experimented with not having screen time at all. It works remarkably well. After a few days, my kids will start playing cards together.
But I don't feel this is a long term solution. How can us parents manage screen time so that our kids can enjoy it in a healthy way?
Dr Tara Egan is here to help us out.
Nowadays we’re able to connect with people all over the world. We have instant information at our fingertips.
If we want to learn a new skill, or find out a fact, it’s easy to find great resources on line.
It’s easy to be social on line too. We can connect with like minded people. Or discover new people in different cultures and find out about their lives.
Kids get used to constant stimulation. Kids’ ability to tolerate boredom goes down. It also means they may find it difficult to concentrate on longer period of times (than the shorter episodes they’re used to.)
Kids are often used to be sedentary. They’re used to getting their stimulation from the screen. Playing with a real ball can feel unappealing.
Screen time, especially later in the day can affect quality of sleep. (This is due to their brains being stimulated as well as blue lights that many screens emit.)
Accept that you can’t keep up with all technology. But you do need to supervise them. That can include looking at what they’re using their devices for. (Rather than allowing them to keep it private like a “secret diary”.)
2. Use timing technology
Set limits and use the technology to stick to the limits.
Kids don’t handle transitions very well. Try not to increase the number of transitions unnecessarily. (E.g. instead of 2 short episodes of screen time, think about 1 longer one.)
Don’t allow kids to carry on with screen time when they aren’t behaving appropriately.
Take into consideration both the quality of time and the amount of time spend on screens.
Generally the younger the child, the less screen time they should have.
Consider what else your child is doing during the day. Are they being productive and active? Or are they tired, unengaged and grumpy?
Podcast: One Day You’ll Thank Me.
You may have noticed that Dr Tara didn't specify any specific limits for kids. This will look different for each family. If you're interested in the "official guidelines" they're very short! The APA recommends only 1 hour per day for children above 2.
If your child is distance learning, that doesn't even seem possible!
But here are the guidelines if you'd like to check them out: screen time APA.
With 4 kids I need a system that everyone can follow. My kids are allowed 4 hours of "free screen time" a week. (They have specific days. The older boys like to play games. The younger ones watch cartoons.)
In addition to that, they're allowed "educational activities" such as learning a language or writing, watching cartoons in a different language.
We also watch family movies together.
We've created a flexible system which allows us adults to buy a bit of quiet if we want and which creates balance between the benefits of screen time for kids and avoiding the dangers of "addiction".