Nowadays, kids are almost always on their smartphones, tablets, computers, etc. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, U.S. kids ages eight to twelve on average tend to spend around four to six hours daily watching or using devices with screens. In addition, teens in the U.S. spend up to nine hours of screen time.
Of course, most everyone enjoys screen time. However, as the parent, it’s wise to keep track of how long your child is on their device(s).
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
According to Heartmanity, screen time has an increased pull for teens since forty-five percent of them are online on a prolonged basis, and eighty-four percent have gaming consoles at home.
As you read this brief guide, it will help you know how to better manage your child’s screen time to foster a healthy and strong relationship with them.
Understanding the Risks of Too Much Screen Time
According to Active Health, too much screen time comes with various health risks. Regardless of whether you’re a child, a teenager, or an adult, excessive screen time can lead to the following side effects:
- Eye and body strain
- Sleep deprivation
- Weight gain
- Risk of chronic health conditions
- Loss of cognitive ability
- Impaired social skills
- Weakened emotional judgment
- Delayed learning (in young children), AND
- Low self-esteem
Since too much screen time risks children’s mental health as well as emotional and physical well-being, the problem is worth tackling. To prevent these health challenges in your child or teen, you may be wondering how to manage screen time for your children without creating power struggles and escalating conflicts. Luckily, there are ways to reduce time on devices while also strengthening your relationship with them and the unity of your family.
6 Parenting Tips for Screen Time Management
Refrain from Distracted Parenting
First, parents must look at how they themselves are using technology. Believe it or not, kids learn and copy so much from their parents’ habits, as well as from other adults. When they see adults spending copious amounts of time on their devices, then they’ll more easily follow suit. When parents find themselves distracted with their own devices, it’s considered distracted parenting because it takes them away from quality time and connection with their family.
So, limit your own screen time before trying to reinforce reasonable limits for your kids. Being a great example is the most influential teacher.
Make the Transition Easier by Showing Sincere Interest
Now, all parents want happy kids and you’ll likely hear some objections from your children. However, you can prevent a major power struggle with a “my way or the highway” enforcement or sudden change to their screen time habits. Instead of having your child cut back on screen time dramatically or completely, make changes slowly. Show genuine interest by talking with them about:
- What TV show they’re watching and why do they like it.
- What video or computer games do they enjoy most?
- What activities they’re doing on their computer (You may be surprised that a good portion of their time might be dedicated to homework.)
- Possible activities they would enjoy more.
Be a Good Listener
It’s essential to listen to your child when they talk about their screen time. Seek to understand why your child spends so much time on their devices. Maybe they’re not getting enough attention at home, or they might be experiencing trouble at school. Be sure to sit down with them and talk about spending more quality time with them and as a family. Getting to the real reasons we drift into bad habits is imperative and allows for more open communication and understanding between you.
Set Limits with Kindness and Curiosity
As previously mentioned, you don’t want an abrupt transition from screen time to “family time.” That’s why it’s important to set some healthy limits gradually and with kindness. Maybe you begin by asking your child to be more aware of why they watch TV and if it’s because they’re bored. Or ask them if they feel better or worse after spending time combing social media.
Greater self-awareness is the first step toward healthier choices. Perhaps engage them in a conversation about other activities that would be more fun or that you can do together as a family. Now, while this suggestion depends on your unique situation, you’ll be surprised to see what you and your children can do when they’re away from their devices, and everyone is more creative with their time at home. In short, kindness can help you create limits that are beneficial to greater happiness for you, your child, and the entire family.
Educate Them about the Healthy Use of Technology
Every day holds opportunities for teachable moments with your child. Be mindful of what is developmentally appropriate for different ages. Healthy limits for a four-year-old will vastly differ for your teenager. Encourage lively discussions about tech use as a family and legitimate reasons for restrictions. Be sure and educate your child about screen time in the following ways:
- Clarify the types of activities you consider “screen time.”
- Be clear about what is good content that’s allowed during their screen time and what to avoid.
- Point out the dangers of online interactions on devices and social media.
- Highlight health issues that can develop with too much screen time (i.e., weight gain, strained eyes, etc.)
- Help your children monitor themselves and any unconscious, unhealthy habits that could form.
Educating your child about screen time is crucial because they’ll need discernment and self-restraint as they have more freedom and autonomy the older they get. There will be many enticing activities online, scores of apps to purchase, new social media platforms and trends, and many new influences. Teaching them self-control, self-observation, and the right use of technology will not only help protect them from harm but empower them.
Seek Professional Help for Unhealthy Addictions
Finally, if you feel that there’s a serious reason your child is spending too much time on screens, sit down with them, and talk. Sometimes, kids can develop issues such as depression, low self-esteem, negative self-image, or anxiety.
Perhaps the use of screens is cloaking a problem or giving them a false sense of connection that can negatively affect their wellbeing. Screen time can be addictive. If you’re wondering if your child has a screen addiction and why it forms, check out the research. Since activities such as social media surfing and texting on smartphones give users a dopamine rush (the “feel good” effect in the brain), kids can fixate on them. They are susceptible, especially with their developing brains. Without that dopamine “fix,” kids and teens might suffer from negative feelings and experiences they’re not dealing with adequately.
In any case, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor or seek professional support if you have concerns and to ensure that they get the mental and emotional help that they need.
Ultimately, people—including kids—will continue to be exposed to screens on devices now more than ever before. That’s why it’s vital to assess your child’s screen time, encourage healthy habits, and teach them self-control.
While it may take some time for kids to get used to screen time limitations, the results will be worth it! By referring to this brief guide, not only will you be able to manage screen time more effectively, but you’ll also build a healthier and happier relationship with your child.
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