If you’ve ever seen the glassy eyes of a child watching a third hour of cartoons, or you had to tear his hands off a gaming device while he begs you to let him finish that level of the game, you know why screen time is a problem. Here are four important things you can do to stay in control of screen time and make screen use an important part of your kids’ lives.
1. Minimize the use of screens, especially for young children.
- Try to expose babies and toddlers as little as possible to screens, be it television, videos or interactive media like educational apps. (The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that children under two years of age have no screen time.) If you also have older children, explain to them why they should limit screen time when they are in the company of their younger brothers and sisters.
- Help older children understand from the beginning that using screens is a health issue, such as eating healthily or brushing your teeth. Just as children can understand that some foods are better than others and that abusing good things can be bad, they can learn to make good screen choices.
- Set limits that include all screens, and determine times and places where no one can use a screen. The screens should not be in bedrooms or at the dining table, and should be closed and stored at least one hour before bedtime.
2. Use screens conscientiously, as an activity you choose rather than as “background noise” or habit.
- A good way to control your screen time is to be aware of it. Television, computer or mobile device should be open at specific times and for special reasons. When you do not use these devices, they should be closed completely (not just in sleep mode) and stored as much as possible. Make sure that children do not get in the habit of opening their devices as soon as they sit down and that their screens do not serve as “background noise”.
- Get creative! It’s not unusual for kids to be obsessed with the characters and the environment of their favorite shows and games, and the situation does not have to be unhealthy. When the screen time is up, encourage them to draw, write or play stories about their favorite characters so they do not have to say goodbye when the screen goes off.
3. Mitigate the effects of the media by cleaning up the media your children use, setting rules at home, and accompanying your children in their viewing whenever possible.
- For younger children, choose their own media, and allow older children to watch media or play games you have approved. Media for all ages can post worrying content, and for children over the age of 2, the quality of the content can make a difference between a positive and negative viewing experience.
- If possible, accompany your children in their viewing . Educational media are most effective when viewed with parents who can help broaden and reinforce learning content, and co-viewing is the best way to spot and talk about troubling content in the media. When co-viewing is not possible, make sure you know the content of everything your children watch and play in order to talk to them about anything that worries you.
4. Show good media use to your children.
Before we teach our children to use the screens conscientiously, we must first do it ourselves. Pay attention to your own use of the media, and think about the messages you send by doing so. You can also develop a family plan to show that screen time management is important for everyone, not just children.
Think of ways to use the screens together as a family, whether it’s video chats with distant friends and relatives or using the Internet to explore hobbies and interests together.
Next comes the question how to implement these rules effectively. The answer to this is using the FamilyTime app. The app offers screen lock scheduler, remote screen lock options, app timer, Time bank feature, app blocker and many other valuable features to regulate kids’ screen time effectively. So what are you waiting for now? Give FamilyTime app a free try now.