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The three Cs to managing your children’s screen time


Doctor Jenny Radesky, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 digital media guidelines, tells us how.

Amid the pandemic, parents might be finding it harder than ever to manage their children’s screen time – especially while working-from-home. After all, how much is too much? Imposing a blanket ban after, say, two hours of screen time might be impractical when your child needs to discuss the details for a group project – and also finish their online homework after that.

The statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on 17 March 2020 reflected on this concerning trend of increasing device screen time in children. In short, managing your children’s screen time, though important, isn’t about meeting some sort of strict standard. Instead, look at it as something to strive towards together as a family, perhaps with some help from a nifty framework that Doctor Radesky and others’ dubbed the three Cs – child, content, and context.


Here, Doctor Radesky deferred to parents’ superior knowledge with regards to their children’s behaviour. Parents should try to investigate what screen-based activities their children are most addicted in and they should try to manage those particular screen-based activities first, rather than completely cancelling out all forms of screen time at once. For example, if your child is prone to spending far too much time on gaming, that’s a surefire sign that it might pay dividends to limit that form of screen time over others.


Attempting to qualify rather than quantify screen time is another helpful tool to manage digital device use. Consuming media from reputable sources that entertain as well as educate means that at the very least, your child wouldn’t be necessarily “wasting” their time on screens. Overstimulating, frenetic television shows should be avoided to prevent over-exciting your children, for example. That said, it doesn’t mean that stimulation has to be avoided altogether – children may be allowed to play multiplayer games as a form of social interaction and cutting that off entirely wouldn’t do good to children either.


The way we interact with our children’s media use is also another important factor. Simply put, don’t be aloof or judgmental. Connecting your child’s media use with real-world examples can help your children get something more out of their screen time. Watching a documentary about polar bears could lead to a visit to the zoo, further cementing a positive relationship between you, your children, device screen time and the outside world. Framing digital device use as a sort of guilty pleasure to be hidden from parents under blankets after bedtime would necessarily be less desirable than healthier, happier ways of managing your child’s screen time.

It is important to take note that every child is unique in their own ways, so it is always good to understand your child better first to see how you might implement the three Cs to manage their screen time. As with most things, communication is key, so do also spend some time discussing with your child first before enforcing any hard rules. Empowering children will go a long way to make sure that they comply with these rules, even when you’re not right by their side.


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