It is important to establish electronic rules for children. Most children are intrigued by electronics and it is the easiest way to preoccupy them if you need to do something around the house. Most parents however do not know how to set rules and boundaries to limit screen time. A lot of times, I hear parents tell me their child is addicted to screens. They can play video games all day and leave their priorities behind. Parents do not know how to handle the use of screens or how to discipline their child who is constantly on their phone or playing games.
There are negative effects of being on the screens for too long. I wrote a blog on Electronics Negatively Affecting Children which you can read to see the negatives that come out of being on screens for too long. Since technology was not available in previous generations, many parents do not know how to set time limits and struggle with setting clear boundaries. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics they recommend “children and teens only be allowed a total of one to two hours of entertainment media per day” (www.discipline.about.com). “If parents don’t teach kids about limiting electronics time, kids can miss out on the real world,” says Amy Morin, psychotherapist and About.com’s parenting teens expert (www.wtop.com). She continues by saying,”kids spend an average of seven hours a day behind screens.” So what are parents do to? How can they monitor screen time?”
Here are some tips parents can use to monitor childrens’ electronic use:
- You should model behavior that you want your child to follow: If your child constantly sees you on the computer or on the phone, don’t expect your child to behave differently. You should be aware of the amount of time you are on screens and make sure you are setting a good example
- Set up a schedule or time where no electronics should be used: I have a client who is on screens the moment he comes home from school. I suggested for the parents to take away all screens during the week (unplug television, take away phones, set up passwords on computers) and only allow him to watch a 30 minute show once he completes all his homework. During the weekends, I suggested family activities or extra curriculum activities. The parents reported back the following week with positive results. The child also mentioned that he now knows the limits and boundaries and does not ask for screens before homework is completed.
- Spend time as a family: Set up a time, such as dinner or before bedtime, where the whole family is spending time together without electronics.
- Talk to your child about using too much electronics: Talk to your child about the risks for using too much screens. Some children may not understand the risks associated with too much screens, but if you set up clear boundaries and limits and follow through with those limits, perhaps they will take you seriously.
- Encourage other activities: Some children do not know what to do once screens are taken away from them. I once saw a child who felt bored without electronics and could not find anything else to do with his time. Speaking to his parents about encouraging him to engage in sports, volunteer, join clubs in school, or learn to play an instrument were suggested to help him focus on other productive things besides screens.
- Don’t allow television or video games in your child’s room: Having electronic devices in your child’s room can make it hard for you to monitor his screen time.
- Get passwords: If your child is on social media, it is a good idea to get their password to social media accounts. This is a great way to monitor things such as cyberbullying.