January 10, 2020

Written By: Kristin Louis

Do your children currently walk around like zombies with a phone in one hand and a video game in the other? As a parent, it is your job to keep a close eye on how your child uses their screen time. But that can feel impossible. Read on as we explore this timely and challenging parenting dilemma.

Too much of a good thing

Some studies have found that more than four out of 10 children have their nose in front of the screen for more than 30 hours each week. Unfortunately, although technology is essential in today’s world, problems can arise when it replaces things like physical activity, self-care, and real-world relationships.

Because of this, Psychology Today explains parents should enforce a strict limit of no more than one hour per day for children under five and notes that toddlers should avoid screen time altogether, short of video calling. Children ages six and older should be limited to two hours per day.

How much screen time does my child get?

In all honesty, most of us probably do not know exactly how many hours each week our kids are online, playing video games, or texting. While there are apps compatible with many devices that can monitor this, it is what we do in the real world that determines how often the youngest members of our family put the electronics away. A few things you can do include:

  • Set an after-school schedule. Make electronics off-limits until homework and chores are completed. Dinnertime should also be phone-free because these smart devices can ruin the experience of dining together, which happens to be one of the most important functions of the family unit.
  • Be an example. Children learn by mimicry, and even our teenagers will follow our lead. Be a positive example by putting away your own devices during family time.

Alternative activities

Since technology is so integrated into our daily lives, it’s a good idea to refresh your memory of low-tech alternatives. One of these is to provide your children a well-equipped outdoor play area. According to HomeAdvisor, you’ll need some flat open space and playground equipment they can enjoy.

Buy pieces that are easy to maintain and that will keep your kids interested for years to come. A swing set, teeter totter, and trampoline are all enjoyable and, when used correctly, are safe ways to burn some calories.

Doing art together is another activity and one that offers ample benefits for the developing brain. Being creative enhances neural development and can help a child fine-tune their problem-solving skills. You don’t have to have an art studio; a box of crayons and a piece of paper will suffice. And after a day of art and play, you can keep your kids off their devices for longer by including them in meal preparation.

Also, do not forget to encourage your children to invite their online friends over for in-person interactions. Schedule a play-date of one to two hours per week for younger children and allow your tween or teen to enjoy a sleepover at least once a month.

The dangers of overdoing it

There is truly nothing wrong with allowing your children to become acquainted with technology. Still, there is evidence that an overload of screen time can have a negative long-term effect on the youngest members of our society. First is that it does not involve physical movement. This can increase the risk of becoming obese at a young age.

Next is a matter of sleep. Screens emit blue light, which acts like a trigger to tell the brain that it’s time to be more active. An equally alarming concern is that children who bury their faces in front of pixels all day are at an increased risk of developing mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

As a society, we are still in our infancy when it comes to having access to technology 100% of the time. Because of this, it’s often difficult to know what’s acceptable and what is not. The best thing you can do as a parent is to pay attention to your children and act quickly if they show signs of technology addiction. Remember, the point is not to take their tech away but to help them achieve a balance of online and off-line time.