Between television, tablets, computers, video games, and smartphones, kids are constantly surrounded by electronic devices. But according to guidelines provided by the World Health Organization, children need to spend less time in front of screens and more time engaged in active play in order to grow up healthy. That’s all well and good, but with all of the technology in our everyday lives, parents may be at a loss as to how to limit screen time for their children. Below are 7 tips for managing the amount of time your child has in front of a screen.
Set a Schedule
Instead of letting your kids watch TV and play on tablets any time they want, set a specific schedule for when it’s appropriate. Don’t use screens as babysitters so you can get the laundry done. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only an hour of screen time is suggested for toddlers through 5 years old. Dedicate this hour to watching educational programming with your family.
Make kids move around every 15 minutes
It’s important to keep your children physically active. When your child is watching videos or playing computer games, encourage them to move around every 15 minutes. This will not only get them moving, but they may become engaged in another non-screen activity that is more exciting and stimulating. Reward them when they choose not to continue watching TV to read or play outside with extra treats or low-cost activities like going to the park.
Limit where electronics are permitted
Keep electronics in one location in your home, like the family room, and teach your children that the only place where they can have screen-time is there. Stock this room with lots of other non-screen alternatives like LEGOs, board games, books, and puzzles, so they have other activities available to them there. Ban tablets and smartphone usage from your child’s bedroom and the dinner table. This will teach them that screens have their place in the house, and when you’re sitting down to dinner or going to bed, screens should not be involved.
Set an Example
When you’re trying to figure out how to limit screen time for your child, take a look at your own habits. Is your smartphone permanently attached to your hand? Do you have the TV on while you cook dinner in the kitchen? If you want your child to have a healthy relationship with screens, you need to set an example. Listen to the radio while you fold laundry instead of watching TV. Rather than scrolling through your Instagram account while you’re in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, read a book. Kids will mimic what their parents do, so give them an example of how to entertain themselves without falling into a screen rabbit hole.
Use Screen Time as a reward
Parenting is all about positive reinforcement. Instead of giving your child a device whenever they want, use it as a reward for good behavior. For example, motivate your child to read, go outside, or do their chores by rewarding them with additional screen time. And when your child acts up or does something they aren’t supposed to do, take it away. This teaches your kids that screen time isn’t a necessity, but an extra bonus for doing what’s right.
Offer alternative activities
Kids want what they want, when they want it. When your child asks to watch a TV program or if they can have their tablet to play a game, offer to read them a book or do a puzzle instead. Children often default to the easiest thing when they’re bored, and if you provide other suggested activities they’ll realize that there are other things that they can do to stimulate them and keep them busy.
Research Educational Programs and Games
When your child does get their requisite screen time, make sure that they’re watching or playing age-appropriate videos and games. Put parental controls on your devices so that they can’t navigate to something that isn’t appropriate. If using a smartphone or tablet, only download games that are not only educational in content, but are age appropriate. It’s also useful to play these games and watch these videos with your child, so that you can explain or answer any questions that they might have.
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