Updated: Feb 10, 2022
What counts as screen time and how do you manage it?
The world kids are growing up in is far different than the world their parents experienced. Sure, today’s parents picked battles with their parents about watching one more TV show or hogging the landline to chat with friends on AIM. But for the most part, technology was stationary.
Now, children have technology literally at their fingertips with tablets, smart phones, smart watches and more. To further complicate things, technology is embedded in their education. Textbooks are a thing of the past – it's all about modules now.
In a world where technology is all around us it can be hard to determine appropriate screen time expectations. The balance between screen time, green time, and me time can be exhausting. To find your balance, try implementing these six simple tips with your children to create a healthier screen time routine.
Tip 1: Communicate clearly.
Define technology and screen time for your children. It sounds obvious but sometimes kids do not think about their schoolwork as screen time. Clearly explain that if it has a screen (phone, tablet, computer, TV, etc.) it is technology. When you look at the many types of screens your child is exposed to, the time spent quickly adds up.
Tip 2: Evaluate screen time content.
Not all screen time is the same. Depending on the age of your child, you should always be very selective about what they are watching and what they have access to. Even kid friendly versions of apps still need to be monitored.
For kids aged 2-5, it’s more important to find shows that are interactive, engaging and educational. Shows like Sesame Street or Mister Rogers Neighborhood are great options because they include human interaction, speech and language development, number and letter recognition and real characters that are not just flashy lights and movement.
What’s most important is engaging and interacting with your child while they watch TV, ask questions, point out something that happened, make them think about what is happening instead of being “zoned out”.
Tip 3: Determine time allotment.
Discuss with your children how much screen time is okay. Some parents choose to set limits of screen time a day while others choose to allow screen time during a specific period. Regardless of the method, the following are recommended screen time amounts by age:
Under the age of 2: restrict all screen time
Ages 2-5: very limited interactive screen time
Ages 5 and above: no more than 1 hour per day
*Pro Tip* Kids of all ages should limit or stop the use of screen time at least 1 hour before bed to support better sleep.
Tip 4: Set boundaries.
When you set the boundaries for screen time ahead of time, you have a better chance of avoiding meltdowns and conflicts. Clearly defined boundaries empower children because they can make choices independently within the limits you have set. Once boundaries for all ages are established, place them in a visible place for everyone.
Tip 5: Establish screen free zones.
A screen free zone can be defined as an area or timeframe. Screen free areas could be bedrooms or the dinner table. Screen free timeframes might refer to screens off at 7 p.m. Whichever method you choose, consistency is key.
Tip 6: Be an example.
The best and hardest tip for last. As parents, we too need to learn to unplug. We know it’s hard, especially if you’re working from home. Setting screen time boundaries for yourself is a wonderful way to model the behavior you wish to see from your children. Remember, they are always watching you. *Pro Tip* Adults also benefit from limited screen time before bed. Try reading a book or magazine, meditating, organizing your next day, or a relaxing exercise instead of turning on the TV or scrolling through social media.
Technology is here to stay. Creating a healthy relationship with technology will allow you to reap its benefits and ward off its downfalls.