Tablets, handheld games, smartphones, TVs. There are so many technology options for children to use both for educational purposes and for simple fun.
But with those opportunities, there are also serious downsides. Too much time spent with noses buried in a screen. Not enough time spent playing outside or interacting face to face with others.
In a survey by Gallup and toy company Melissa and Doug, parents reported how their children ages 2-10 spend their time per week:
Too much screen time can impair brain development and affect sleep patterns. Most parents want to reduce the hours children spend interacting with a screen, but feel at a loss on how to do it and do it consistently.
How to manage screen time (and not let it manage you)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers parents the following tips to help children growing up successfully in the digital age.
Set limits. You may have heard the “no more than 2 hours of screen time for children over 2” rule, but the AAP issued new recommendations:
- No screen time for infants younger than 18 months (starting at 18 months you can introduce high-quality TV programming)
- One hour per day for children 2 to 5 years
- Limit digital time as appropriate for children older than 6
Play together. Join both the online and offline fun. When you play together, you learn together. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate good sportsmanship and etiquette while playing online games.
Don’t use as an emotional pacifier. Children need to learn how manage emotions or boredom without turning to digital media. Help your children learn other strategies that will serve them well as they grow up.
Model expected behavior. It looks a tad hypocritical to limit screen time if your nose is in a cell phone throughout the day. Limit your own media usage and stay connected with your children.
Do your online homework. Many games and apps claim to be educational, but those claims may be misleading. Visit commonsensemediacom for independent reviews of games, apps and websites.
Teens can be online. It’s natural for teenagers to use social media as part of their friendships. It’s important to talk about expectations for online behavior and the reality that nothing posted online is truly private.
Children are going to make mistakes – whether they’re online or offline. As parents, it’s important to remember that fact. Keep providing patient, loving guidance while continuing to learn about the ever-evolving technology children can use.
“We want to help parents raise healthy, well-rounded children. Children need to learn how to enjoy screen time in age-appropriate ways without it being all-consuming.” – Dr. Robert Wallace, Suburban Pediatric Associates