In today’s digital age, it’s increasingly common for children to have their own phones or access to their parents’ devices. It’s important to discuss limits with your children to help them understand and why screen time management is important.
“While technology can be a valuable tool for education and entertainment, it’s crucial for parents to manage and monitor their kids’ screen time to ensure a healthy balance,” says Michael Ross, MD, chief medical information officer, Optum Insight and a pediatrician at Northern Light Pediatric Primary Care in Bangor.
Some adverse effects of excessive screen time on children include obesity risk, sleep/nighttime disruption, and delays in social learning and development. Dr. Ross has media use guidance he calls “Dr. Ross’ Nine Degrees of Media Hygiene” to help parents.
- Discussions: Be firm about not looking at, playing with, or handling tablet/phones when talking with each other. Hold yourself to the same standard.
- Delineate: Consider content for co-watching: Choose age-appropriate topics, but as children get older embrace controversial topics, and talk about them. Use caution when watching news or other media showing violence.
- Discipline: Empower your children to have regular hobbies that do not directly use screens, but don’t be afraid to use screens to augment those activities! (iPads to read music while practicing, phones while working out, etc.). “Gamify” for motivation and habit formation when you can.
- Distraction: Work with your children to reduce the frequency of their phone alerts. Children do not need to be notified of every text, like, heart, or snap.
- Deny: Adverse effects of social media are considerable. Delay introduction for as long as possible, limit use, and ensure you are part of all social networks. Be your child’s chaperone and model the right behaviors.
- Diligence: Check your teenagers social media accounts. There is zero tolerance for cyberbullying (either as the recipient or the initiator).
- Dinnertime: Eliminate personal devices at dinner. Meals with younger children should be at the dinner table. Limited meals with older children watching media together accompanied by discussion should be infrequent.
- Driving: Define when you should/should not use media in the car (not for in-town vs. ok for long trips). Zero tolerance for texting while driving!
- Dozing: No televisions in the bedroom. No phones in the bedroom, charge them in the kitchen or the parents’ bedroom.
Managing screen usage for kids requires a thoughtful and proactive approach. By setting clear guidelines, discussing online safety, and leading by example, parents can help their children develop healthy and responsible smartphone habits. It’s important to strike a balance between the benefits of technology and the need for physical activity, social interaction, and quality family time. By doing so, parents can ensure that their children’s screen time remains a positive and constructive part of their lives.
To learn more about screen time visit: Media and Children (aap.org)