Television, smartphones, the internet, and video games serve as the main sources of entertainment and education for children of all ages. At the same time, too much screen time has harmful side effects. The pervasive nature of our digital devices has huge consequences on the eye health of everyone, including children. As a parent, how can you set the optimum level of screen time your child is allowed in a day?
Recommended screen time
Among some of the guidelines issued by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),
Children younger than 18 months of age should not be exposed to the screen in any form except the occasional video chat with family or friends. Children aged 18 to 24 months of age can have some screen time with parents, and should only watch high-quality programming with their parents who can explain to them what they are watching.
Preschoolers (2 to 5 years old) should be limited to an hour a day of educational programs with parents or caregivers
Children aged 6 years old and over should have more physical activities and sleep with limited screen time, regularly monitored by parents.
It is important that you do not completely restrict your children from their devices. Rather, introduce some changes to their lifestyle. With everyone in the family (even the adults!) involved in taking active measures to protect their eyes, your children will be encouraged to do more. Here are some ways you can do this:
How to have productive screen time as a family.
Be active with your children.
Encourage your children to read books, play board games or even cook by doing these activities with them! Create a space in your home where everyone can play and read together. Involve your child in cooking by asking them to help you in the kitchen. This will expose your child to how fun living an active lifestyle away from digital devices is. And the best part is, you can join your children in all the fun and take a break from your screens!
Turn off all devices during homework, meal time and sleep time.
You can better enforce this by following this rule yourself, especially during meal and sleep time. When it comes to sleeping, research has shown that using digital devices before sleeping, delays your body’s internal clock and impedes the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Hence, this rule should be especially enforced before your child’s bedtime, to ensure they are well-rested and fresh for school the next day. Like sleeping, meal time and homework should not be disrupted by the use of devices. Ensure that these rules are followed as a family to make the enforcement of this rule much easier. These are important hours of everyone’s day and dedicated for a specific activity, and any distraction would only worsen everyone’s eye health.
Treat screen time as a privilege and not a punishment.
As a parent, it can be tempting to nag at your children and punish them for indulging in watching the television or playing video games. However, studies show that positive reinforcement, i.e. rewards, better resonates with children than punishment. It is hence more productive to treat using digital devices as a privilege that is given when all their work is done well than take it away as a punishment for bad behaviour.
Monitor your child’s screen time using parental control apps.
There are parental control apps in the market that assist parents to monitor and keep an eye on the activities of their children. Such apps serve as an extra pair of eyes on your children’s device-use. Apps like plano even enable children to earn ‘points’ for following good device habits which can be traded for rewards in the plano shop. Parents can participate in experiencing these rewards together with their children! Downloading such apps can monitor your children without having to be physically with them all the time.
Make a family TV timetable.
A fixed schedule for the entire family not only serves as bonding time but can help introduce a TV-routine that your child can get used to.
In essence, participating in indoor and outdoor activities away from devices as a family, scheduling pockets of time where everyone should not be using their devices, and introducing a TV-routine which everyone in the family follows can drastically improve your parenting style when it comes to protecting your child from too much screen time. All children want to do is to have fun and it is up to parents to show that they can do so without being behind the screen all the time!