With screens everywhere, it is impossible to prevent children from access. Several medical reports and studies point to a worrying fact – long screen time compromises on children’s mental and physical development. Parenting comes with a lot of responsibilities, and in this technology era, a new one is added to the many roles, controlling screen time and setting screen time limits is a crucial one.
Many publications and health reports have confirmed that the tapping away of tablets, staring TV screens and fiddling smart smartphones for long periods is harmful. Setting screen time limits can, however, ensure that your kids’ interaction with gadgets is one of the healthy habits they practice.
Develop Screen Time Rules
Parents of today have many expectations and are always setting rules. If you do not, start now! Children learn better with clear instructions, and though they will step the boundary often, do not get tired reminding them of the rules. Like any other thing, setting screen time rules is vital.
Involve the child and factor in their interests. Let them choose which of the programs or shows they would not want to miss. Schedule the screen time around their interests and hobbies. Ensure you know the content and agree with the teaching or values of the show.
Setting screen time limits with them will make them receptive to the guidelines. You do not want to create resentment as your intentions are pure and well-meaning. Unfortunately, dictating your expectations without involving them will lead to rebellion which compromises on your relationship, making parenting harder than necessary. Apply the same rules to kids virtual and real environments for consistency.
Here are some tips to consider when coming up with the rules:
- Plan for free-play and unplugged time
- No media entertainment during homework
- Have tech-free times or zones like during mealtime, family time or eat outs
- Set screen time curfews like switching off screens 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Install apps that control screen time length
- No screens in the bedroom
- Limit your screen time as well and eliminate background TV
Teach Age-Appropriate Behaviour and Values
There are very many things that happen online. It is impossible for children to pick what is appropriate and helpful for them without guidance. Most of the times, curiosity leads them to no-go zones. As a parent, be vigilant. Most teens get entangled with addictive vices like sexting, pornography, and other online relationships. Others engage in cyberbullying.
Instil family values, beliefs, and appropriate behaviour in children helps them to know what you believe and expect from them, whether online or offline. Family values serve as a guide on what is acceptable or not. Children get to learn and implement healthy habits, whether supervised or not. While at it, ensure you live the talk as examples are more effective in parenting.
Take time and teach children about the dangers of too much screen time. It is crucial for them to understand dangers like online predators, violent games, and the health issues associated with excess interactions with screens. Ensure they know the importance of healthy interactions, and they should never share or send anything online that they do not wish the world to see. Unless they understand the dangers of the screen time, get your gloves on, and be ready for eternal war.
Screen Time Quality
There is a lot of excellent and educative content on the screens. All you need to do is pick age appropriate and helpful programs. You may have to preview games, apps, and programs before allowing your children access. Interactive options that engage the child are better than the ones that require swiping and pushing or staring.
Watching programs or playing with them is another excellent way of bonding. Besides improving your relationship, getting involved allows you to teach your child. You can educate them on the commercials, advertising, or what the program teaches. Point out inappropriate scenes or language that they should refrain from, in case such occurs.
Have parental controls for content filtering and blocking in case their curiosity leads them to the no-go zones.
When your teens are big enough to have phones, ensure that you educate them on the cost implications of data use and App stores. Unless you have a massive budget for data, letting them use data without control will make you broke. Even with jobs, excess spending on data and Apps are financially unhealthy habits.
There are several organizations which you can consult to help you determine appropriate apps, programs, or games. Since you can never know everything, ask whenever possible.
The last word on setting screen time limits
Irregular sleep habits, obesity, violence, loss of social skills, behavioural problems, and less play time are some of the problems associated with unregulated screen time for children. Developing healthy habits in children is one of the successful attributes every parent wants to achieve. Getting screen time right and helpful for children is like picking gold from the gutter. It calls for intentional parenting. Set goals and celebrate small wins in the parenting journey to recharge. Once you instil a responsible screen time in your household, you deserve a medal!
Do you set screen time limits for your children? What are your thoughts on the above considerations for setting screen time rules? Do share in a comment below.
*This is a collaborative post