In this digital age, we cannot deny that cellphones, tablets, computers, and other devices are now an important part of a parent’s life. It is very useful in a child’s life because it can keep the kids entertained through applications and also learn new things through Internet videos.
Of course, everything has its advantages and disadvantages. Digital devices also have their negative effects. In particular, too much screen time can have negative effects on you and your child’s life. If that’s the case, then drop the phone and use your devices less, especially in the presence of your kids.
What is screen time anyway?
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Screen time is the time your child spends in front of their device’s screen for entertainment or recreation purposes. This includes the time spent watching television, playing video games on computers or tablets, and using the Internet on your smartphone. Multiple behavioral studies show that excessive screen time causes poor academic performance and low quality of sleep, which may affect the cognitive growth of a child.
To combat these negative health effects, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized the importance of screen timeout. WHO encouraged physical activities and quality sleep among children versus phones, so that children can improve their overall health. In addition, the WHO recognized the vital role of parents and other members of the family in screen time management.
But setting screen time limits seems like an impossible task, especially for busy parents. With this, we rounded up 10 tips and tricks to help you easily exercise screen time control for your children.
1. Find out how much is too much screen time
To exercise parental control on your child’s screen time, you must first know the health recommendations for different ages. WHO has set screen time guidelines, which can be helpful for you to take note of how much screen time your kids should have.
For infants that are less than one year, no amount of screen time is recommended at all. When the infants are sedentary or not doing anything like playing with a toy, the WHO advised that the parent should engage the infant in reading and storytelling.
The screen time for toddlers from 2 to 5 years should not be more than one hour. In fact, screen time for kids this age should even be less. And like infants, WHO recommends that children in this age should be engaged in reading and storytelling instead.
For older kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has given a screen time reminder. According to the AAP, the amount of screen time for children ages 6 and older depends on their family now. While there are no exact time recommendations, screen time for children and teens should be more on productivity rather than for entertainment.
2. Set screen time limits within yourself first
Parents are their children’s first teachers, so you must never underestimate the effect you have on your child. Children learn by the actions that you show them. Without knowing, you might have already imposed how much screen time they should be doing. For example, if they see you using your phone all the time during dinner, they can easily do the same thing. Your children, especially your teen son or daughter, might even use this as a reason to get out of screen timeout.
Practice screen time management on yourself first. Check your device’s built-in screen time tracker or ask anyone in the house to be your personal screen time monitor. In this way, you can show your child how important it is to for you to set screen time limits.
3. Do not depend on screen time to calm your child down
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These days, screen time also means babysitting time for kids. After all, it is easy to stop your child from running all over the place or crying by handing them a phone or a tablet. They can easily be distracted by a fun app or interesting video on the Internet. This is only natural, as this is one of the benefits of screen time that parents enjoy.
But of course, be wary about using screen time to calm down your child all the time. Your child may be throwing tantrums not because they want your gadget, but because they want your attention. But if you must really depend on a gadget to help them calm down, at least sit with them as they spend their screen time.
4. Consider screen time as family time
What is a better way to limit your child’s watch time on the Internet? Do it with them! Positive screen time effects include better communication and harmonious relationships among family members, especially if you do activities like watching movies online together or playing competitive video games with them.
Make sure though that most of the screen time you do with your family promotes physical activity. Teach your kids basic dance moves through online videos, or download fitness apps or video games for basic fun exercises. This way, you don’t just practice screen time management, you also keep your children (and yourself!) fit and healthy.
5. Play exciting games outside your screens
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One of the reasons why setting screen time limits to children is difficult is because the children themselves cannot find other ways to be entertained. They can easily download many apps or watch hundreds of random videos to entertain themselves. So it is up to you as a parent to help them find interesting indoor activities to do at home aside from spending too much screen time.
For one, you can turn household chores into mini-games. You can turn a cleaning activity to a competition, where the person who cleans their rooms quickly will get a reward. You can even use additional screen time as their reward. And before you know it, you already got them to help you finish the household chores but you also got to exercise parental control on their screen time.
6. Set up a place or a room for easy screen time monitor
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As it was mentioned before, excessive screen time leads to poor academic performance. With this, you must always remember that screen time and study does not go together. Your child may promise to study with their devices on, but make sure they do not sneak some screen time. You can do this by setting up media places or rooms in your home.
How does this work? For example, screen time for your kids is only allowed in the living room and never in their bedrooms. Or, you will stay with them on the computer or video game room while they use it. Make sure not to hover too close to them and make them feel uncomfortable or pressured. Just relax by doing your own screen time with them, too.
7. Plan screen time schedules with them
Just as it is good to spend screen time together with your children, it is also important that you set screen time schedules with them. This can help you in many ways. For example, writing screen time schedules can teach your child about responsibility and honesty in following their schedules.
Also, you can use these screen time schedules for easy time monitoring when you are away on a business trip or an important errand. You can ask another family member to check your child’s screen time schedule to see if they are following it.
You can also make sure they follow their screen time schedules together with school work by adding it to their back-to-school guide.
8. Download only useful apps for their studies
Another way to avoid too much screen time is by actually downloading the apps that they need. Only download apps that are useful in your child’s studies. And even if they are educational apps, remind your children to limit using their tablets, especially in school. After all, different schools have different policies in gadget usage.
You can also exercise more parental control on-screen time by setting passwords before your child can download apps on your device, they would still have to ask for your permission before they can download a particular app. You also get to review if the app they want to download will be good for them or not.
9. Find out how to use parental control apps
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Of course, you cannot sit by your children 24/7 and monitor their screen time. This is especially true when monitoring screen time for teens. Your teen might get embarrassed if you watch them as they feel kilig over watching their celebrity crush’s new drama, or by sharing funny videos to their friends online. Also, you might have to spend your time away from home due to work so that makes screen time control also impossible.
It is a good thing that parental control apps now exist. Windows, Android, and Apple devices have screen time limiting apps and features available so you should try exploring and learning them. These screen time management apps let you see how much screen time your kids have used, and also to close the app whenever the screen time you set for the device is already used up.
10. Explain screen time rules to them
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Of course, you have to explain why you are setting screen time limits to your children. Doing this avoids disappointment or anger from your child because of limited screen time. You have to patiently make them understand why you are doing it, and tirelessly remind them of the rules.
You might even consider making the screen time rules with them. This creates another bonding opportunity and you get to know the interests of your children, too. For example, your child might share that they want to have screen time every Tuesday because that is when the new episode of their favorite Youtube channel is released.
Screen time is definitely unavoidable nowadays for people of all ages. But parents, no matter how busy, should always be vigilant about the amount of screen time their child has. Both children and parents can encourage each other to live a healthy lifestyle versus spending too much time online