If you sit too close to the television, you’ll go blind. Ah, the good old days when just sitting too close to the television was too much screen time. Now there are so many devices vying for our kid’s attention: computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming systems, on-demand tv, that it is overwhelming. A Nielsen report found that children age 2-11 watch over 24 hours a week and 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching tv and videos for an average of 90 minutes a day.
How much time do your kids spend in front of a screen each day?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time for children age 2 and under and 2 hours a day for ages 3-18. Too much television is linked to obesity, social/behavioral issues, and sleep problems.
Follow these 3 guidelines to ensuring your kids are getting the appropriate quality and quantity of screen time:
- Set Expectations
- Guard the Content
- Take Breaks
Provide Strong Expectations on a Consistent Basis
It is easier on both parent and child when there are set rules and boundaries for what they can watch and how long they can view or play. Negotiating is also greatly reduced, though never eliminated.
Make a schedule. If you need help remembering, consider writing the schedule and hanging it on the wall or refrigerator. Decide what days and times they allowed the use electronic devices? Weekends? School nights? After dinner? Set limits for how long. Can they watch one show? One movie? Or play for 30 minutes? While easy to have the television on all day so people can pop in and watch whenever; it becomes difficult to monitor the duration of viewing time. Stay consistent with the schedule.
Television is not the only concern; we live in a world full of electronic devices. Pay attention to time spent on everything. Monitor how long they spend and, if possible, apply parental controls. Many devices allow for parents to schedule how long a device is used, then it automatically shuts off.
Decide at what age your child is allowed to watch television, play video games, own a tablet or a phone.
Protect Your Child from Harmful Content
Playing a video game that teaches math is different than a shoot’em up. The same goes for television; content that is educational vs. entertainment. Before you let your kids consume the content know if it is appropriate. Always watch the program, movie, or video before allowing them.
Along with content, consider the purpose for viewing. Is it time spent as a family or as a diversion? Are you hoping they will learn a new skill or reinforce an old one? There is nothing wrong with playing or watching for fun, just be wary. You may want to adjust the viewing time based on the purpose.
A Non-Exhaustive List of Purposeful Content
- Teach a skill
- Learn a lesson
- Bonding time
- Release of energy (exercise programs)
- Sensory input
Take a Break from the Screen
Computers are a necessity to complete work, so taking a break is a good idea for kids and adults. Spending too much time in front of a screen can cause eye strain.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule. After 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
It is not that screen time is bad, it is that it can take over a person’s life. Know when and how your kids engage with a screen, stay consistent and take breaks to keep refreshed.
Spend too much time staring at a screen and we miss out on the precious everyday moments.