Is your kid addicted to the screen, whether it’s the tablets, computer, or a gaming console?
Are you wondering how much you should be limiting their time in front of electronics and if they’re getting anything out of it?
If you’re wondering about it, you should pat yourself on the back. That means you’re a concerned, involved parent.
Let’s look at the screen time guidelines, negative effects., as well as some ways to manage your kid’s screen time.
Screen Time Guidelines
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children between the ages of 2 to 5 have at most one hour of screen time per day (1).
But for babies under the age of 18 months, the recommendations are stricter.
The AAP recommends babies under the age of 18 months should not use any digital media, like tablets, phones, and television (with the exception of video calls).
That’s because it can cause issues such as overstimulation, sleep problems, and a lack of bonding time between baby and parents.
Screen Time Recommendations Summary
- Under 2 years old: ZERO screen time (including TV, electronic media, DVDs, computers and electronic games).
- 2-5 years old: No more than one hour per day.
- 5-17 years old: No more than two hours per day (homework not included).
Negative Effects of Screens on Children
While there are upsides to limited screen time, there is a dark side as well, particularly for those who aren’t limited when it comes to how much time is spent on the screens.
Tips to Reduce Kids Screen Time
It can feel like an uphill battle at times to get your child to put down the screen. But the good news is, the sooner you start instilling better habits for this, the easier it will be. It’s much harder to try to implement these rules after your child has already started becoming too attached to its screen time.
Be a Great Example
That’s the thing about being a parent — you need to be aware your child is always watching you. They don’t just listen to our words, they watch our actions and our behaviors. They take cues and form opinions from that.
So make sure you’re engaging with your child instead of constantly answering texts or surfing the web. If you have to check your emails for work, try to do that after your child goes to bed for the night.
Follow the advice of the experts and set time limits on the screen time you let your children have. A good starting point for children 5 and under is one hour a day.
But don’t stop just at limiting time. You should also limit the type of screens they use; There is no reason they should be playing with your phone at all at that age. Educational television can be a healthy part of their day as long as it doesn’t exceed the limit you’ve set for it.
As your kids get older, you will also want to consider limiting the type of content they are able to access on their devices to protect them from inappropriate or dangerous situations.
Keep Track of Time
It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re busy. If you’re not actively logging how much screen time your child is getting, you’re likely underestimating it. To be certain they aren’t exceeding the limit you’ve set up, you need to watch the clock.
You can use the timer on your oven to keep an exact track of time. You can set it for 30 minutes and once that beeper goes off, your child has to stop their screen time. Over time, they’ll know that beep means no more screen time for a while and it will help you avoid any whining or arguments.
Keep It Active
You can use your child’s screen time as a way to keep them active. Perhaps you can challenge your child to a game of Wii Sports. There are several interactive sports games, karaoke machines, or dances you can do with your child.
If you’re watching television, you can do simple exercises during the commercials, such as jumping jacks or marching in place. That will get their heart rates going, and although it will only be a few minutes at a time, it’s definitely better than remaining sitting the whole time.
Eat Meals at Your Table
By eating dinner at your family’s table, you won’t be crowded around the television watching it as you eat. That will cut back on your child’s screen time and allow them to interact more with the people around them.
It will also let them pay attention to their body’s cues so they will be able to tell when they are feeling full instead of continuing to eat because they’re more absorbed on the television in front of them.
Don’t Allow Electronics in Their Bedrooms
A child’s bedroom should be a place where they go to sleep, especially at a younger age. Having a screen or two in there will only encourage them to spend more time shut up in their room, away from you and their other family members.
Children shouldn’t have televisions in their rooms, and they shouldn’t be allowed to fall asleep while watching one (3). Children, especially younger ones, don’t need computers in their bedrooms either. They can do their homework on a computer in the living room.
As they get older, making this a firm rule will cut down on the opportunity for your child to be cyberbullied without you knowing about it.
Cut the Cable
You probably use your computer for work, filing taxes, or keeping in touch with relatives you don’t see anymore. There are dozens of legitimate reasons to keep your computer and internet service going. But televisions are not as essential.
If you’re really dedicated to limiting your child’s screen time, getting rid of your television can help immensely. It’s best to make that move while your child is still little. An infant or a toddler won’t know what they’re missing, but if you try limiting a kindergartner or older school-aged child, you’ll meet with more resistance.
The Bottom Line
The key to reducing or limiting screen time is consistency — make sure your rules apply all the time, not just when you’re busy and need a screen to keep your child occupied. Along with consistency, you need to realize it will take some effort, especially if your child already has more screen time than recommended.