Many parents often wonder how to limit screen time for children. In today’s day and age, children are exposed to many different types of electronics with screens such as smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets, and more. Unfortunately, these devices are everywhere and are hard to avoid. Even so electronics these days can help when it comes to learning or even building a community, but it can also lessen one’s sleep and even creativity.
Pediatrician Michael Rich says it is not how much we use these electronics, but rather how we are using them and what happens to the brain while being used. The growing human brain is constantly building neural connections while getting rid of the ones that are less used. Digital media plays a large role in the way the brain builds these neural connections and much of what happens on the screen provides an “impoverished” stimulation of the developing brain.
According to Rich, ” boredom is the space in which creativity and imagination happen.” Unfortunately, in today’s day and age when boredom sets in many children turn to electronics rather than using their own imagination. Further, multiple studies have shown that using a smartphone or any electronic emitting blue light can affect one’s sleep pattern. This is because it suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone. Without a good night’s sleep, children’s brains can’t develop properly.
The same goes for those who are constantly playing video games or are on social media. It affects their health as well as daily lives both in school and at home. This is why is it important when it comes to how to limit screen time for children. They need their brains to develop properly without anything interfering. The brain is a delicate organ and one that needs to be nourished constantly.
How To Limit Screen Time
Model Healthy Electronic Use
The first step to limit screen time for children is by the parent modeling healthy electronic use. This means showing electronics are only used for something specific and short-lived, not for binge-watching a show or playing around on social media. The TV should not be kept on all the time if it is not being used. Scrolling through the phone during any spare moment a parent can get it also not good. These qualities only teach the child bad habits when it comes to screen time.
Parents Need To Educate Themselves About Electronics
Nowadays, most kids are tech-savvy and know more than their parents do when it comes to using electronics. This is the exact reason why parents should stay up to date when it comes to electronics and using them as well as any new “in” social media apps. The only way a parent can teach their child the dangers of certain electronics or apps/social media sites is by staying up to date about them themselves. It should be a parents’ priority to learn these games, apps, etc. so that they can teach their child the dangers of them as necessary.
“Technology Free Zones” are Smart
There should be zones in the home that are technology-free. For instance, in the kitchen. No technology like laptops or tablets should be brought into the kitchen. The kitchen is for eating. Even the bed can be a technology-free zone. No electronics in bed. This way they don’t bring it with them to bed before getting shut-eye for the night. Creating zones is a great way to be in control and limit screen time use in children.
Schedule Times to Unplug
A great way to limit screen time for children is by setting times to unplug from any and all electronics for the entire family, parents included. Great times for this include dinner time and the hour before bedtime. This unplugged time is a great way for families to get together and do things together that improve bonding and strengthen relationships. There can be days where the unplugging from electronics can be longer so that there is a “digital detox” for the entire family.
Parental Controls Are A Must
Using parental controls should be the parents’ first thought when it comes to how to limit screen time. It is also important so that the child doesn’t see something accidentally that they should not be seeing. This way, parents can monitor exactly what their child is doing while using the electronics as well as knowing they are safer.
Discuss with Children the Dangers of Too Much Screen Time
Parents should explain to their child the dangers of screen time. They are more likely to listen and understand the reasons when they cannot use electronics if they are given an explanation as opposed to simply stating “no more screen time.” Their understanding of these reasons are important and will prevent many arguments and tantrums. Children should be taught the dangers of potential predators online as well as the dangers of seeing something inappropriate or playing a game that is not age appropriate. When children get explanations, they will listen and understand.
Keep Track of Childrens Passwords
Whether kids have a password for a login to a game they play or to unlock their smart-phone, parents should ask to know these passwords and keep track of them. This is especially true when it comes to social media accounts as so much can happen online. Obtaining these passwords can help the child learn to keep a healthy relationship when it comes to using online services.
Encourage Activities Other Than Electronic Usage
Nowadays children are reliant on screen time for entertainment. A parent should encourage them to take time off them and to do other activities instead. For example, going outside to play with friends or reading a book.
Screen Time Should be Made a Privilege
Parents should let their child know that screen time is a privilege and not a right. Start taking away electronic usage as a consequence when they do not behave or are grounded. Don’t offer more screen time as a reward when it comes to rewarding them however and always stick with the daily limit set when it comes to screen time.
Do Not Allow Social Media Time in The Child’s Bedroom
When a child is in the bedroom, it is impossible to monitor what they are doing on their electronics, let alone on social media. It is best to not have TV, video games, etc. in their room. Try to also not allow them to keep their phones with them at night. Screen time before bedtime can interfere with their sleep and brain development.
Apps to Limit Screen Time
- Zift: Not only does Zift offer screen time to be monitored by parents, but it also is a parental control app. It sends the parents the child’s activity, new apps that were downloaded, as well as alerts the parents if the child is watching something inappropriate.
- Screen Time: This app can help parents block certain times such as times when homework is to be done or when dinner is to be eaten. This app is perfect for customization if more time is to be added or taken from the child’s screen time.
- unGlue: This app helps children learn screen time etiquette. Parents can set boundaries with this app by bundling it into a category and setting up a time limit for children to access the internet. It also allows the child to get rollover internet access if they don’t use all their time given for the internet or complete their chores, etc.
- Qustodio: This app has features that can block certain websites that are inappropriate as well as limit game time and schedule time to unplug from the internet. Parents also get activity reports sent from this app.
- Norton Family: Norton allows parents to know who their children are texting, what they are watching and playing, as well as how often they are gaming and online. It also offers “instant lock” which a parent can turn on at certain times so the child is unplugged.
How to limit screen time for children is very important and something each and every parent should be serious about. Not only because of safety, but also because of the children’s development. Setting rules and times when electronics can be used will be beneficial for all, even if it may not seem so in the beginning. Electronics can bring children to some scary sites or even scary people and that is something that is what needs to be prevented along with healthy living. With parents modeling usage of electronics and talking to their children about electronic use safety, limiting screen time for children will become easier with time.
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