Between smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs, screens are everywhere you turn. So it might not surprise you that your children face as much screen time as you do, if not more. However, NPR reported on a study that showed extensive screen time can negatively effect the way children read the emotions of others. As a result of that study, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screen-free zones at home and no more than two hours of screen time a day for kids, and none for children under two years old.
How to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time
Lead by Example
You might take this step on grudgingly, but the first place to start is with yourself. When your child sees you constantly on the computer, phone or tablet, he or she will naturally be interested in what you are doing. Instead of only showing him or her your screen time, let your child see you read a book each night before bed. This sets a precedent that the hours before bedtime are screen free.
Make Unpopular Decisions
While you can lead by example, you also should be the one who decides what your child does in terms of his or her health. Limit his or her time in front of screens each day and enforce this schedule even when it is unpopular. Go further by explaining to your child why you make these decisions, so someday he or she may make those decisions for him or herself.
Use Parental Controls
Many technological devices have implemented parental controls that enable you to limit what your child can do and how long he or she can do it on the device. For instance, the iPhone 6s has a full parent dashboard, so children can play games and surf the web in a limited capacity. Other technologies, such as TiVo and Netflix, also have kid modes that protect your child from inappropriate content.
While this may sound extreme, you can cut down on most of your child’s screen time by limiting the technology he or she encounters in and out of the house. This means no TVs or other screens in his or her bedroom, no screens at the dinner table and no screens in the car. All these restrictions dramatically lessen the amount of screen time your child has and forces him or her to find other social interactions.
Instead of TV time or computer time before bed, engage the whole family in board games like Monopoly or Life. You can also have story time when you read to your child or have him or her practice reading out loud to you. If your child is more interested in dolls or actions figures, get down on the ground and play with him or her.
Although it may be easier to turn on the TV or play a computer game after a long day at work and school, in the long run, you’ll be glad you limited your child’s screen time and made the effort to connect on another level.