Most of us know that children today are exposed to more electronic devices and screens then previous generations. Around 80% of parents worry about how much screen time there child is having, as studies investigate the negative impacts of excessive screen time on a child’s social, physical and intellectual development. Yet there are ways that families can successfully manage screen time, allowing children to enjoy some of the educational and social benefits of digital technologies.
As a ground rule, it is recommended that children aged 0 – 24 months should have little to no interaction with screens. Whereas, children aged 2 and up are slowly able to increase their exposure if done so in a healthy and collaborative way with the rest of the family.
Below are our top 5 tips on how you can successfully manage your child’s screen time:
1. Model healthy screen time habits
You are the first person your child will look to when trying to understand what ‘normal’ is. If you are constantly on your phone checking social media, messaging or reading the news, your child will want to follow your lead. This can be confusing if you become angry and frustrated at them for modelling your behaviour. Keeping screen time in check can mean leaving your phone aside while you completely engage in activities such as reading or eating meals with your child. Another suggestion is to catch up on Netlfix and text messages while your child is asleep.
2. Be actively involved in their screen time
There are several benefits to having screen time as a family activity, involving both parents and children. Being actively involved means that you can influence what your child watches and ensure their online safety, while encouraging the educational benefits screen time can offer. Try to guide your child towards quality screen time apps or programs that encourage learning, problem solving, physical activity, social development, new interests and creativity. This is a great bonding experience as you can participate in these platforms together, while facilitating the learning experience for your child. We have included links at the end of this article to quality screen time options suitable for children of different ages.
3. Set realistic boundaries
Setting realistic boundaries early lays a foundation of understanding with your child. This means that you can manage their expectations by helping them to know that screen time is a privilege and that there are limits. Your child should also know when is an appropriate time for screen time and what potential consequences for breaking the rules may be. Examples may be that devices can only be used in family areas and not in the car or bedrooms, or that screen time is limited to a specific time frame of each day. A great way to enforce these boundaries is to give them five-minute warnings when their screen time is almost up.
4. Encourage alternatives
Ensure that your child engages in a balance of activities other then screen time. This means encouraging a healthy amount of play, reading, games, activities and outdoor adventures – with screen time as an added extra on the side. Sometimes the weather is not always on our side for trips to the park or shops, so try to keep some inexpensive and age appropriate supplies in stock for rainy days. Examples include crayons, sketch books, stickers, bubble mixture, water colours, glue sticks etc. Having the basic ingredients in the pantry to make play dough or bake together is also a fun activity. A useful tip is to constantly rotate your child’s toys and books, so that they feel like there is always something different to play with or read.
5. Get practical support
From setting boundaries to implementing structure in your child’s life – practical support can assist in building the foundations for healthy play and learning habits. Practical support can also help you gain insight into other problems or patterns of behavior that may need addressing in the process. Our Family Support Worker offers a range of Parenting Seminars to address different topics that parents may be facing. We also offer an integrated Child and Family service that support families with a range of learning, communication and physical difficulties in children.
Useful Links (Raising Children Network)-
The information contained in this article is a guide only and should not be used as a diagnostic tool or taken as medical advice. If you have concerns about any areas of your child’s health and well being we recommend you see your GP or contact us to arrange a service with our Child and Family team.