Because of the restrictions fueled by the pandemic, your kids now have become accustomed to spending more time indoors. While this keeps them safe from the spread of the virus, it increases their susceptibility to the excessive use of digital screens.
Allowing your children to use digital screens can provide advantages, but you should know when to draw the line as a parent. Excessive use of digital screens can limit the physical activities of your children and their ability to mingle with friends and family in person. Over time, this can have adverse effects on their development and growth.
Fortunately, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics published suggestions to help parents determine how much screen time is excessive or too much for kids. With this information, you can set rules with your kids to ensure that their overall wellness isn’t compromised because of excessive use of digital screens.
Screen Time for Babies
According to the WHO, children who are under one year old shouldn’t use any screens. The AAP had similar recommendations but changed them recently. The AAP says that children under 18 months can use screens as long as it is used for video chats as this enables the baby to observe facial expressions and interact with other human beings.
However, both organizations suggest that parents should never use screens as a pacifier or babysitters. Studies have shown that using electronic devices as pacifiers or babysitters can delay a child’s speech development.
Screen Time for Toddlers
The APP suggests that children who are 18-24 months old should only use screens for educational programming with the supervision of a caregiver or adult. Parents should avoid letting their children use devices independently as they may be exposed to sexual or violent content.
For children aged two to four years, both the AAP and WHO recommend an hour of screen time every day. However, the AAP modified their recommendation to allow children in this age bracket to have one hour of non-educational programming per weekday and three hours on the weekends.
Screen Time for Kids and Teens
Initially, the AAP recommends parents allow kids aged six years and up to limit their screen time use to two hours only. However, because of the changing world, these limitations were no longer realistic. This is the reason why the AAP changed their stance on screen time for kids and teens.
Now, the APP pushes parents to encourage healthy screen habits and limit activities that involve a screen. This recommendation causes problems to parents because they will likely have a hard time determining how much is too much for their kid’s screen time.
6 Warning Signs It’s Time To Modify Our Child’s Screen Time Habits
The recommendations made by the APP and WHO regarding a child’s screen time can be overwhelming. The suggestions they made are often easier said than done, especially since most children have been more dependent on screens ever since the pandemic started.
To ensure that your child has the best of both worlds — experiencing the wonders of technology without harming their growth and development — you should look out for warning signs that tell you if they’re using screens too much. This information will help you learn when and how to intervene.
Here are some warning signs that should prompt us to modify our child’s screen time habits:
- Your child always complains about neck pain or headache that doesn’t go away.
- Your child constantly begs you to extend their screen time.
- Your child is no longer getting enough sleep and seems tired during the day.
- Your child no longer enjoys activities that they used to enjoy and would prefer using a device all the time.
- Your child throws a temper, complains, or gets angry when you tell them it’s time to turn off their device.
- You caught your children lying about how long they have been on the device.
3 Tips for Building Healthy Screen Time Habits
Once you’ve ticked off at least one of the signs mentioned above, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and set new rules on your children’s screen time use. You should pay careful attention to how long your children spend time on the screen to ensure that they remain healthy mentally and physically.
As a parent, you should work on building healthy screen time habits for your kids by:
1. Set Consistent Rules About Screen Time and Strictly Follow Them
Parents always have a soft spot for their children, which is why some would agree to extend their child’s screen times whenever they ask. However, doing this regularly will only defeat the purpose of having rules and might give them the idea that your rules can be bent.
To build healthy screen time habits with your kids, set in stone how much screen time is allowed and when and where they can use their devices. For example, you can set screen-free zones (devices not allowed on the dining table) and screen-free time (children cannot use their devices using family game night).
Over time, this will help children build a healthy balance between screen use and family time.
2. Provide Children With Activities They Can Do in and Outside of the House
Another way you can build healthy screen time with your children is to ask them what they want to do instead of spending time in front of a device. Most of the time, children are encouraged to use devices because they have nothing else to do.
You should encourage your children to try sports or take the dog for a walk outdoors. You can also invite them to read books, color pictures, and complete puzzles. The more activities you offer to your children, the more reasons they’ll have to put down their devices.
3. Be a Good Role Model
Your efforts to build healthy screen time for your children will be useless if you don’t follow the same rules. Keep in mind that your children will observe your behavior, and they will mirror what you do (and don’t do).
As a parent, you should be a good role model and refrain from using devices when unnecessary. You should put down your devices when dining or celebrating with family. Your rules on screen time use will only have weight if you also follow them constantly.
What Are Your Thoughts?
As a parent, you are responsible for regulating your children’s screen time use. Doing this can be challenging but very doable as long as you remain consistent with your efforts. How much screen time will you allow your kids?
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