I have a love hate relationship with electronics. It’s fantastic to have Google answer any question that I might have on my mind and the limitless knowledge available right at my fingertips. It is also a constant battle with my 12 and 9 year old about screen time….hence the hate part. I REALLY tried to follow all of the rules the “experts” proposed from a very young age with the intention that , at this stage of the game, I would have the hard rules in place and my kids would simply fall in line to what they have known to be the tried and tested regulations of the Taylor household. Umm..No! Screen time is always a battle and a constant irritation when it comes to how much time my kids can play on electronics or watch U-tube. Although my boys tell me that EVERY other child or friend in the universe gets way more screen time than them, I wanted to share a little research that I found helpful in establishing boundaries.
The majority of screen hours are spent "media multitasking," meaning kids are using more than one medium at a time—like watching TV and scrolling through social media simultaneously.
A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media each day. HOLY COW!! REALLY? This made me feel like an award winning parent. Read on…
The total time is the equivalent of more than 53 hours per week or 2770 hours each year.
Too much screen time has been linked to a variety of problems. Excessive electronic use raises the risk of obesity, interferes with social activities and family time, and takes a toll on a kids mental health.
In contrast, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that parental monitoring of a child's media use can have protective benefits on his academic, social, and physical outcome. Taking the time to strategize on how to set limits is very worth your time (and the resistance you will get) as a parent.
Knowing that parents can make a difference for their child by limiting screen use, what can you do? What strategies have helped other parents implement and enforce these rules?
Every child is different, and one strategy may work better for one child than another. That said, I hope that at least a few of these techniques will help you set healthy limits for your own child.
Make Screen Time a Privilege
One of the ways in which screen time has changed dramatically in recent years is that it's often felt to be more of a right than a privilege. If you grew up watching the four channels available, you may have felt fortunate to watch a cartoon on Saturday morning. The combination of having just about anything available on a screen 24/7 places more pressure on parents to say when a child can and cannot have screen time.
Make it clear that screen time is a privilege that needs to be earned. At first, this may be difficult. But the lessons from learning to delay the gratification of screen time and have self-control will stay with your child for a long time.
Also, make it clear that the privilege of screen time can be taken away at any time. Teach your kids to do homework and chores first, before he turns on the TV or plays on the computer.
Role Model Healthy Habits
Telling your child to shut off his electronics while you’re sitting in front of the TV isn’t likely to be effective. Children will learn more from what you do than what you say.
Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.
Let your child see you make the choice between looking something up on Google and checking the score of a game. Show her how you have learned treat media as a privilege.
Most kids think they’re pretty good at multitasking. They try to text message while doing their homework or use social media while talking on the phone. If your child has a phone, you're probably all too familiar with their justifications for doing so.
Discourage your child from doing two things at once and discuss how multitasking actually interferes with productivity.
Establish Clear Rules
Most kids, especially younger children, aren’t mature enough to handle free reign with their electronics. Establish rules that will keep your child safe and help your child make good choices with video games, TVs, phones, and computers.
Examples of good rules include having a set time when screens need to be turned off at night and removing screens from bedrooms.
Encourage Physical Activity
Encourage your child to get some exercise. Going for a walk, playing a game of catch, or even doing some yard work can ensure your child will get the physical activity he/she needs. Think of activities you can enjoy as a family so it seems less like exercising.
Educate Your Child
Have frequent conversations about various aspects of media. Discuss how advertisements often try to convince young people that certain products will make them more attractive or more popular. Discuss the dangers of too much violence exposure and help them learn how to be an informed viewer.
Shut off your TV during mealtimes and don’t allow text messaging or web surfing while you’re eating. Instead, use the opportunity to talk about your day. You may be hearing more and more about how family dinners can make kid's lives better. Don't let screens cheat your family out of this priceless time.
Every once in a while it can be helpful to have a screen-free day. You might even consider a longer digital detox—like a week-long vacation from electronics twice a year. It’s a great way to ensure that everyone still has plenty of activities that don’t involve electronics.
Schedule Family Activities
Involve everyone in activities that don’t involve electronics. Whether you play a board game or go for a family hike, make it clear that during your time together there won’t be any electronic use.
Hold Family Meetings
Schedule a family meeting to discuss screen time use. Allow your child to give input about the screen time rules. Address problems together. Make it clear that you want everyone in the family to develop a healthy relationship with electronics.
Benefits of Limitations
The studies discussed earlier tell us some of the hazards of excess screen time and how monitoring and limiting the use of electronics improves outcomes for kids academically, socially, and physically. Yet the benefits of limiting screen time might seem even more real to you if you think about what else your child can be doing.
Considering that the average child spends almost 3000 hours a year behind a screen, 1 what else could they be doing?
Have a United Front
Limiting screen time is all well and good as long as parents work together. Studies have found that inter-parent conflict (conflict between parents) in setting these limits is associated with a child having more conflict in his or her relationships. It may also result in greater exposure to media violence.
Before setting media limits with your child make sure you work together with your partner so you can present these rules as a united team. For parents who aren't together, this can be more difficult. If you are facing this, try to see that uniting (even if divorced or otherwise separated) is important for the health of your child.
It's quite clear that excessive screen time can be damaging to our children academically and from both a physical and psychological standpoint. At the same time, screen time is causing our children to miss out on many activities which are important in nurturing the family and friendships.
Try some of the strategies listed here to reduce your child's screen time. If you need something positive to counteract the resistance you will get from your child, keep track of the activities which replace screen time. You may be pleasantly surprised. Electronics and screens aren't going away anytime in the near future, and there are positive aspects to their use as well.
As parents, we can teach our children to use these screens as an asset which is a privilege.