The Screen Time Dilemma
How much screen time is too much for my child? It's a question that every parent asks themselves, constantly! And there's no easy answer. Every family has to make choices that are good for them, and find ways to implement what they believe in. It's not at all simple, but I'm gonna try and explore some thoughts to help you weigh the pros and cons in case you are struggling with this decision today...
#1 There's Research Both Ways
While there's research that says too much screen time can affect child development, reading and such, there are also actual research-based online tools to help your child read. There's research that uses games to teach math and other skills- screen time can also be used effectively. Make sure you see both sides of the coin.
#2 Not all Screen Time is Equal
Kids use technology in different ways, some active and some passive. I'd like to suggest that active screen time can actually help children learn. These could include educational games, or even tasks like video making, blog writing, designing and art etc. Passive screen time is when a child sits in front of a screen just absorbing video and sound, like in a TV show. When this continues for hours, over days, it can be harmful to the child's physical body, and overall health. It's best to restrict passive screen time.
#3 Specific Screen Time Slots help
To promote productive use of technology, a child can be given slots specific to different tasks. Like an hour for software and games that are educational. Or an hour for a video game that you think helps build creative skills (We love minecraft for that!). This breaks up screen time into specific slots and decreases the chance that your child will endlessly watch TV shows.
#4 We live in a Technology-Based World.
When I was growing up technology was equal to entertainment. The only screen we had was TV and my parents said we could only watch an hour a day. Today, we live in a world where life is based on technology. I need a screen or a device to order my groceries, pay my bills, do my job, learn, be informed about the news and even connect with friends and family. I even do my workouts with an app. It is essential for my work, social, emotional and physical health. Our kids live in this same world. We can't have the same rules about screentime that we had growing up.
#5 Screen Time is Addictive.
This is a truth that we all have to face, and we have to teach our kids to face. We can't get frustrated with our kids when we find them playing a game when they're supposed to be cleaning their room, while we struggle to stop after one episode of a sitcom. The addiction is as real for them, as it is for us. We have to demonstrate with our own actions, and teach them to have self-control and boundaries. This will take years of training and practice. Until then, as parents, we have to control access to the devices when we don't want them accessing them. This can be done by literally locking up the devices when you don't want your kids using them, or changing the wifi password for specific times in the day, or using a parental control software to control access.
#6 The internet is a dangerous place.
While spending a lot of time on the internet is dangerous, spending time with the wrong people on the internet is even more dangerous. We have to educate ourselves on parental controls, cyberbullying, predators, and the different ways the internet can be dangerous for our kids. We need to consider exposure to violence. Early exposure to violent video games can result in anger and affect a child's mental health. And then we have to keep talking to them about it, teaching them, and making sure that they are safe while they use the internet.
Those are a lot of things to keep in mind. To summarize, safety is most important. Active screen time is better than passive. Organize your child's screen time and restrict access the rest of the day. Be open to acknowledge that what we did as children will not work the same way now, and we all have to adapt and evolve to find a new way in this new world. Be patient with yourself and your family as you find a rhythm that works!
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