It seems not, but it is possible to reduce the use of your children’s screens and replace them with moments of play.
“He only knows how to stay on electronics. Here at home, TV or video games all day long. My son or my daughter doesn’t know how to play except with the cell phone”. Are any of these phrases part of your everyday life?
Many fathers and mothers write to us or comment on our networks about the difficulty of dealing with screens. I am writing this text at a time when most children are isolated at home. And adults are either working at home and balancing time between children, housework, and work. And for this reason, we end up allowing children to spend more time in contact with screens.
And it’s okay if this is happening in your house.
However, this cut in our lives must be an exception. In everyday life, the rule is that children have a balance between all their activities. Including off-screen activities.
Limiting children’s screen time may seem daunting, with phones, TVs, and iPads everywhere. How much is enough? When does it go from ideal, and can it cause any consequences? Can you impose limits?
Reducing the use of screens is a habit
So we wrote this post gathering everything you need to know to reduce your child’s screen time. There are things you can do to adapt and turn it into a habit in your home.
Regardless of the time, we live in, try to look at the screens as another moment to play with your child instead of using it when distracting the child so you can do something else.
Side effects of screens
While it might be tempting to allow little one’s screen time whenever they want, this can cause “side effects” According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, when they spend a long time in front of technology, health issues can arise such as:
- Sleep problems;
- Self-image and self-esteem problems;
- Lower reading habits;
- Less time spent outdoors;
- Lower school performance ;
- Difficulty maintaining ideal weight;
- Mood swings or attention disorders.
What is the average usage time?
With the potential risks in mind, you’re probably wondering how much screen time is adequate. Although there is no consensus on this subject, most experts agree that the less screen time, the better, especially for babies and toddlers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), screens are not recommended for children under two years old. Children ages two to five can access one hour or less; for those over six years old, there is no concrete data, but the healthy use of technologies should be encouraged.
Tips for setting boundaries
If screen time is occurring for longer than you would like, it is worth looking for alternatives to reduce the amount and promote healthy use of this tool. But how to set limits? A great way to start is by opening a channel of dialogue with the little ones about how social media and the online world make them feel.
Other tips that may be helpful:
- Ensure that younger children are not exposed to inappropriate content by using parental controls;
- Work with older children and teens to set their own limits for healthy screen time.
- Turn off all screens half an hour to an hour before bed;
- Restrict electronic devices at the dinner table or during family activities;
- Establish that chores, homework, and other activities must be completed first.
- Help understand why less screen time can be healthier, mentally and physically;
- Ensure other caregivers know and agree to these limits, so everyone works together on this mission.
It’s also important to understand how much socializing is done online nowadays. As children age, they will need to know how to navigate the social norms their generation is creating, many of which rely on social media and the virtual world.
Also, if reducing screen time is stressful for the child, parents should try to understand what the child feels they are missing out on and see if there are other ways to fill that need.
Get the most out of screens
Remember that not all screen time is equally beneficial. Playing educational computer games is different than spending your day browsing social media. So consider free and educational resources to keep learning during screen time:
- Make sure the content is appropriate;
- Watch with your children and discuss with them the watched content;
- Limit time on social media;
- Talk about online privacy and safety with your kids;
- Encourage the use of technology that promotes human connectivity and creativity.
Another valid alternative to make the most of your screen time is through listening to children’s audiobooks and podcasts. Ask the children what their interests are and look for some related listening or reading materials that they can explore.