Screen Time Tips for Children

Children are growing up with screens surrounding them and are learning to depend on them for playtime, education and social interactions. The main questions parents ask themselves is “how much time in front of a screen is too much?”

Screen time can be positive or negative, and only by understanding how to utilise technology for its benefits, and how to limit its disadvantages, can you help your child get the best of both worlds.

Why can the amount of time spent on digital devices be a bad thing?

While devices such as TV’s, tablets, video consoles and smartphones offer many benefits from a leisurely or educational perspective and can be an interactive experience for the whole family

Non-interactive experiences such as watching Netflix or children’s show hours on end can be harmful in developing social skills and can be detrimental to their learning abilities. Children require real-life stimulations to develop independence and social awareness, and screen time prevents these important life skills from being learnt.

According to the Australian National Physical Activity and Sedentary Guidelines, children under 2 years of age shouldn’t receive any screen time, children 2-5 years old should have less than one hour per day with a screen, and children above 5 years should receive less than 2 hours per day. These numbers don’t take in the time spent with onscreen educational content, so keep this in mind!

As our world is made out of screens, it can be difficult to limit the extent to which your child is exposed to them.

Here are some tips and  tricks to get on top of managing your child’s screen time:

Agree on the amount of screen time. Have a discussion or set boundaries with your child on the amount of screen time you would like to implement. If your child is reluctant or agitated with the discussion, start with small restrictions on time, and gradually work your way to your goal.

Have clear limits on non-tech areas. Make sure you are clear in your words and actions, where and when technology can be used. For example, you may want to make dinner time a phone free zone, or even the bedroom. Perhaps a limit to implement may be no screen time after 7pm or only allow screen time after a particular activity is completed. Decide what works best for your family and stick to it!

Install parental controls. Investigate the technology you have in the house and set parental controls. This can control the channel or websites your child can view, and can also restrict the time spent online.

Control the source. Consider the websites your child enjoys and ask yourself: do I know what my child looks at and is the content educational? Understand what your child views and make sure you agree with the messages it sends them. Also, by limiting the websites your child uses to mainly educational content, you can increase the positive benefits of their screen time. TV shows such as Dora the Explorer, or online websites such as Mathletics allow children to improve their literacy and numeracy skills whilst enjoying the content.

Be inspired for traditional play. Take ideas from what your child watches digitally and use it to explore physical activities they might enjoy. For example, the Lego movie can be a basis to improving coordination skills by giving your child Lego Blocks to build with.

Lead by example. The final and most important tip, is to follow your own rules! Children look up to their parents, and will see the restrictions as a punishment, rather than a family rule, if you disregard what you say. If you put forward the limitations as a fair rule, your child is more likely to follow them without hesitation or resentment.

Don’t forget that screen time can be positive if you let it! The right content can improve motor skills, coordination, and literacy and numeracy skills. Get on top of your child’s screen time and get the most out of the technology available today.

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