A parent’s guide to regulating children’s screen time

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Nearly two years into the pandemic, parents and children alike are still finding it difficult to navigate the current digitally fueled world. اضافة اعلان

Even with the rollback of safety protocols and restrictions, the impacts of the lockdown-imposed distance learning and hybrid learning models were not forgotten. And given the models’ necessity to ensure students had access to education, screen time for school children soared.

During lockdown and curfew, parents also relaxed screen time restrictions beyond school to give their frustrated — and often restless — children an outlet and keep them entertained and somewhat engaged.

However, according to child development experts, excessive screen time is proving to have disastrous effects on children; including obesity, sleep problems, deterioration of communication skills, delayed speech, shorter attention span, screen addiction, extreme boredom, adopting maladaptive behaviors and coping mechanisms, and having unrealistic demands.

According to a study done at the University of Jordan, most children spend more than the recommended screen time, and many parents allow exposure to screens before bedtime and during mealtime without supervision or limitations.

The study also found that 70 percent of children owned handheld electronic devices, and almost half of them play violent video games and imitate what they see in those games. In addition, 47 percent of babies under the age of 2 are exposed to screens.

So the questions now are: how much screen time is too much, and how soon is exposure to screens considered too soon?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two should have no screen time, while children aged 2–12 should be allowed only an hour a day and two hours a day for teens and adults.

However, limiting children’s screen time seems to be a constant battle in most households, with parents unable to regulate their child’s screen time and eventually giving in and letting their child do as they please.

Yet, not regulating screen time will only put your children at risk of developing health and developmental problems.

Below is a guide to helping your child regulate their screen exposure:

Be their role model for screen use

Remember that children are like sponges, and they will absorb everything you model around them, including the time you spend in front of a screen. So, as irresistible as the draws of technology are, when you check your phone every other minute, binge watch your favorite shows, and engage in distracted walking (walking while looking at your device), keep in mind that children will emulate these habits.

Beyond mimicking your actions, your child might even start competing for your attention when they feel that you are too distracted by your devices. One study reported that nearly half of parents have their interactions with their children disrupted by technology three or more times a day.

When addressing your children about the importance of regulating screen time and the risks involved, you must be up-to-date with the latest games, apps, and trends on social media platforms so you can have a convincing argument for your tech-savvy child.

Make it a family affair

When setting rules for screen time as a family — and to ensure that everyone is on board with expectations — allowing your child to feel like they are self-regulating their own screen use will make them a lot less likely to balk at limits you place. Your approach to setting limits must be tailored to each child, as what works for one might not work for the other.

Take into account that each child has their own personality and needs. So the conversation to be had with your 8-year-old gamer son will differ from the one you have with your 11-year-old TikTok obsessed daughter.

Try to be involved with their tech experiences from a young age, even if it means having to sit through seemingly endless Fortnite games or scrolling through TikTok together. This will allow you to supervise the content they are accessing and guide them through the proper use of tech while bonding through this shared experience.

Letting your children teach you about the apps — since they are likely to be light-years ahead of you — also gives them a confidence boost while simultaneously encouraging them to be creative with technology and pair it with other hobbies they have.

Aim for balance

Completely abstaining from screens and having your child basically be the only kid in their class not playing any video games or making videos on TikTok is unrealistic and may even cause your child to resent you.

Regulation is about exercising your authority as a parent to set healthy limits while still allowing your child to flourish in the world of tech. If your child is already spending excessive time online, you have to start by gradually decreasing screen time until you reach the recommended one to two hours per day.
Regulation is about exercising your authority as a parent to set healthy limits while still allowing your child to flourish in the world of tech.
However, it is vital that you monitor the content that your child is consuming online. Update your knowledge on available new tools that will prevent your child from accessing any explicit or age-inappropriate content.

Parents can set up parental controls through built-in settings or apps that create content filters and block specific websites and web searches.

Create screen-free zones

Dedicate certain areas in your home to being screen-free, and reserve those places for meals or engaging in family conversations. This should preferably include your child’s bedroom, as monitoring their screen use is more difficult when they are out of your sight.

Screen-free areas should include TVs, video game systems, handheld devices, or anything they will be tempted to use late at night or interfere with their much-needed sleep.

Parents should also set aside time to completely unplug from any technology around them, especially during mealtimes and at least two hours before bed. Everyone must agree to set aside their devices and spend quality time as a family.

Always offer a replacement

With the endless amount of devices, games, apps, and content, it is very easy for a child to become reliant on technology as a source of entertainment. Therefore, it is up to you to encourage them to seek out different activities and grow their hobbies without using a screen.

Removing electronics from your child without giving any replacements will rarely work. You have to offer a healthier, fun replacement to spending time on screen.

Some options are playing cards or board games, going out for ice cream, signing them up for sports practice, etc.

Be honest

Being honest with children about the downsides of excessive screen time is vital. If you do not provide your child with an explanation as to why you are limiting their screen use, they will just assume you are being mean and are much more likely to try to oppose, resist, and break the rules put in place.

Explain to them what happens when they play violent video games for hours on end, why certain social media trends are harmful to their body image and self-esteem, and make sure you have an honest conversation using age-appropriate language about the dangers of online predators and the importance of staying away from unmonitored chat rooms. Aim to gain your child’s trust rather than making screen time a battleground and a fight for power within the household.

The goal is not to overpower your child and enforce your rules on them. If you befriend your child while maintaining your parental authority, they are more likely to listen to you and share with you.

When they feel that your aim is to protect them, give them an appropriate amount of privacy and autonomy, and that you still understand that they enjoy spending time onscreen, you are much more likely to find common ground and avoid unnecessary arguments.

At their young age, children are unlikely to have the maturity needed to handle online interactions and they are much more vulnerable to cyberbullying. However, with parents’ guidance, children can become responsible digital citizens.

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