4 Ways to Manage your Child’s Screen Time
ImageK Kelly Sikkema
There’s been quite a bit of back-and-forth in scientific research (not to mention mass media) about children’s exposure to screens in the last decade, as the use of devices has become more and more prevalent.
The long and short of today situation, however, is that the average of seven hours a day children in North America spend on screens is not healthy.
Not super surprising, eh?
All of that being said, I would never judge a parent for wanting the sweet relief of parking your child in front of the TV for a show, or setting them up with a game on your tablet.
Like all things health-related, the key with screens is moderation. A couple of shows or games during the day can be a-okay (and in some cases, constructive); hours of daily screen time has been shown to make children more irritable, exacerbate concentration issues, and in some cases, even create addiction issues.
Below you’ll find my four tips for parents who want to improve the quality of their children’s screen time – and their children’s health!
1. Set boundaries
First and foremost, limit the number of hours your child has access to a screen. An easy way to do this (and one that helps reinforce the kind of routine that’s very healthy for young kids) is to have a regular TV or tablet time every day, with a strict time limit. I suggest no more than one hour.
Be firm with those time limits, too: your kids need to know that when their time is up, that’s it – no more screens for the rest of the night.
2. Vet the games and shows your kids are watching
Screens are just tools for conveying information – are you aware of the information your child is receiving? Take the time to really understand the shows, movies and games your child is interacting with, or you may be unknowingly reinforcing some questionable behaviour.
3. Engage with the material (and your children)
Further to my last point, how aware are you of what your child is digesting on a day-to-day basis? Are you having conversations with them about what they’re seeing on screens? Are you taking the time to sit with them, play their games, and talk to them about the themes in their favourite shows?
Being engaged and present with your kids while they’re on screens will in turn influence their presence and engagement, and keep them out of that eerie, zombie-like trance we can all end up in when we watch too much TV.
4. Substitute other activities (like exercise! Outside!)
TV shows, movies and games can never replace the massive benefits of simply playing outside. Our society is reaching epidemic levels of obesity, and it all starts with how children are raised: the more physically active we are in our youth, the better habits we’ll have as we age.
So skip the show, put down the tablet, and take your kids to a park. Want to know a secret? It’ll do you just as much good as them.