Like most parents, my husband and I struggle with how much time we should allow our kids to spend in front of a screen. It’s inevitable that technology will be part of their lives, so we want to teach them how to use it responsibly. They also just really like it – and we like it because it entertains them! Striking the perfect balance is tough. If you’re wrestling with these screen time issues too, consider these tips:
Set Time Limits
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should not spend any time in front of a screen—tablet, TV or otherwise. Playing, interacting with others and being read to are the best ways for young children to develop and learn.
Children over the age of 2 should have their screen time limited to 1 hour or less daily of educational content. This time should include TV shows like Sesame Street, which is designed for children to learn. Watch these shows with them and interact for maximum learning potential.
Older children also need to have their screen time limited to 1-2 hours daily. Any more than that and their sleep and activity levels can be negatively impacted.
Technology Is a Privilege, Not a Right
In our house, ice cream and the tablet are the most powerful motivators for good behavior. Time with technology should be earned with good behavior like following directions, reaching a goal, completing chores, or finishing homework. Likewise, bad behavior means the screen gets put away. Just make sure to lay out your expectations ahead of time.
Provide Fun Options Offline
Get out in front of your kids crying boredom without their screens. Make sure they have easy access to books, games, toys, bikes, scooters and other activities. Organize play dates and outings with other kids.
Also, play with your kids! In my experience, it’s a lot easier to entice my kids to walk away from the screen if I offer to play a game with them or take them to the park.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
If you spend most of your time with your eyes on a screen, don’t be surprised when your kids want to do the same. Be aware that your addiction to screens can be just as powerful – and as potentially damaging – as your children’s. Enforce the same time limits on yourself as you do for your kids and spend that extra time doing something creative or relaxing – either by yourself or with your kids. Put your phone away during key periods of interaction with your children like dinner and bedtime.