Healthy Habits for Screen Time
Whether it’s a television, computer, smartphone or tablet, do you ever feel like your child is always staring at a screen? Technology is a huge part of modern life, and can at times feel overwhelming. As a parent, you may be torn between giving your child the tools to succeed in a tech-heavy world and emphasizing healthy social play.
The case against technology is strong: Too much screen time can make it hard for your child to sleep at night and raises the risk of attention problems, anxiety or depression. It may also decrease school performance and increase aggression.
At the same time, technology allows children develop social and technical skills suited to their evolving environment. For example, texting lets kids keep up with friends they make outside of school at summer camp or in extracurricular classes.
Yet, balancing screen time with other developmental activities can be easier said than done. Here are 6 tips to establish positive tech habits with your kids:
1. Teach Manners
Children are learning social skills around the same age they’re embracing technology. A recent study suggests that by limiting face-to-face interactions, too much screen time inhibits a child’s ability to read nonverbal cues and adjust behavior accordingly.
It’s important to help your child develop healthy people skills on and off line. Remind them to be respectful and only text what they would say in person, emphasizing that tone is not always accurately conveyed.
2. Set Ground Rules
You may want to establish time limits or have your child ask permission before using devices. Screen time among children is intimidatingly high. Forty percent of two to four year olds have used a smartphone or tablet and 14 percent of children six to nine have their own smartphone. Kids spend five to seven hours in front of screens, counting TV, computer and video games. Studies estimate teens spend 9.5 hours doing the same.
If you choose to let your child earn screen time by playing outside, be careful not to incentivize. By offering tech as a reward, your child may come to value screen time disproportionately.
3. Limit TV Access
A good rule of thumb is no TV in the bedroom, during meals and homework or for background noise. Planning your TV viewing rather than browsing channels is another useful parameter.
4. Monitor, Lightly
You may want to disable certain social functions on apps and test unregulated games. Not everything needs to be educational, and your child deserves independence, but you may want to ensure they aren’t talking to strangers or playing sexual or violent games.
Help your child find alternate activities and encourage screen-free time with friends, including playtime with their parents!
Surround your child with productive and healthy relationships to technology in your home, through your own personal use and that of your family.
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