As a millennial who grew up with the Internet, I can remember not using it often, but now I can’t imagine life without it. Back then the problem with screen time had everything to do with TV and advertisements. Rules were implemented so that publicly created content on children’s channels didn’t have advertisements and had educational bits in between shows. Of course, there were ways to get around that like changing the channel and with cable, what you watched was controlled by the TV schedule. If you didn’t like what was on, you had to do something else.
The First Generation to Tackle Digital Screen Time
Millennials and young Gen X’ers who are parents now struggle trying to find ways to limit screen time for their children when you can access anything with the Internet and a smart-device like a phone or a tablet, which most households already have – devices that are easy to hide, as opposed to a big box TV that you couldn’t put under your blanket.
It’s true that there are educational benefits with screen time, but the amount of time spent looking at screens overall should be limited according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is due to negative effects of too much screen time such as:
- Poor sleeping habits
- Behavioral problems
- Social skill development
- Less time for unstructured and active play
Set an Example When It Comes to Screen Time
Experts strongly suggest that parents set an example and reduce screen time themselves. The problem is that most parents have just as big of a problem with excessive screen time as their children. Something as small at glancing at your phone to check a text message could send a message to your child that they are less important.
How to Control Screen Time for Kids
There are several ways to reduce screen time and control the content your child may see. These can be adjusted according to your children’s ages and your lifestyle.
- Children under 24 months should have very limited screen time with high quality content with the exception of video chatting.
- Use apps that control or block inappropriate content, set time limits, and allow you to monitor your child’s activity.
- Older children such as pre-teens and teenagers have found ways to get around the apps, in which case you can discuss the importance of digital literacy.
- Setting screen-free times like
- Meal time
- Family time
- Homework time
- Charge devices outside their bedrooms in a difficult place for teenagers who may try to sneak in their device after lights out.
- Play apps first to test their content and then play them with your child (if they allow you).
- Have your child close by so you can monitor what they’re doing.
- Have a digital detox once a week where there is no screen time for anyone!
Figuring Out the Right Amount of Time Spent Looking at Screens
There is no right way to reduce screen time for you and your family, but setting measures to limit usage is a good first step.