In a world where everything from food to friends can be delivered with the click of a button, it’s no surprise that children are growing up with unfettered access to screens.
In fact, according to survey responses from over 2,000 parents by Common Sense Media, an overwhelming 90 percent said their child under age 8 has used a mobile device, and 48 percent report that their children under age 2 use mobile devices regularly.
While parents recognize the importance of limiting their children’s screen time, they are not sure how to go about it. With over 80 percent reporting they worry “a lot” or “some of the time” about losing parental control of kids’ access to screens, they also do not feel confident in their own ability to manage kids’ screen use at home.
This is a major issue, given that children under age 8 spend an average of more than one and a half hours per day on screens (including TV and video games). That number jumps to almost 3 hours a day for kids 8 and older.
So how can parents find new ways to manage kids screen time? Well, below you’ll find some tips.
Curb screen use by designating media-free zones (and times)
Designate family movie nights or technology-free time together. Try alternate activities like backyard play, board games, and craft projects.
If your child is between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, set an earlier bedtime on school nights to ensure more family time away from screens.
Limit or monitor screen use when kids are not at home
Having a set time for your child to turn off their devices and put them away can help curb what they do on their own time.
However, it’s important to establish boundaries even when you’re not around by placing limits on how much they can play on a device, accessing certain websites or apps, and even the types of games that they can play.
These boundaries should be enforced both by you and your child; give him or her some responsibility in keeping their devices’ content age-appropriate and monitor how much time they spend on them.
Know the apps kids use most for homework and communication
If your child spends a lot of time on homework or school-related apps, it’s probably best to allow them access to those.
However, if they’re mostly used for entertainment purposes (such as YouTube and Netflix), consider limiting how much time they can be used for that purpose each day. This will help prevent any risks associated with distractions from homework or other important tasks.
Assess your child’s readiness to have a smartphone
Some parents may want to impose limits on their kids’ access to a mobile device, but they lack the tools to do so. You could get a kids smart watch to test if they’re ready for any smartphone or other electronic device that may not be as easily monitored. Don’t forget to also put limits on your children’s access to screens as you assess if they’re responsible enough to use screens for fun.
For example, you can place limits on what websites and apps are accessible through a WiFi-connected device, but these are more difficult to enforce on a mobile device.
There’s also the issue of apps that go beyond entertainment and into social media territory, which can have harmful effects on kids’ self-esteem or encourage them to engage with questionable content.
If your child is between the ages of 10 and 13, assess whether they are ready to have a mobile device with unfettered access.
If you do decide to give your child a smartphone, consider purchasing one that comes with parental controls (such as the iPhone) and help them learn how to use it responsibly.
Honestly, managing kids’ screen time is easier said than done, but it’s important for children today to have some time away from technology.
For younger kids, it can be hard to stop them from using screen devices altogether, but you can guide them towards more age-appropriate content and teach them how to use it responsibly.
As for older children, you can help manage their device use by restricting what they are allowed to do when they have access to a device. You can also use a kids GPS tracker to keep track of your older kids when they’re away from home!
Just make sure that you aren’t the one who winds up being too distracted by your phone as well to enforce those boundaries!