The internet is practically a way of life for children, many of whom have been exposed to a digital device their whole lives. Children aged 8 to 12 spend, on average, nearly 6 hours per day exposed to media – watching TV, playing video games, online messaging, or listening to music online. The internet can be an enriching and educational resource for kids, but excessive exposure can lead to harmful effects.
Children having this level of accessibility to screens and devices at home is a relatively new phenomenon, but research already indicates that too much screen time negatively impacts children. Since access to devices and screens isn’t going away (and will likely only increase), parents now look for opportunities to give children the mindset and toolkit to live cohesively with technology, especially as they grow up and make their own choices.
Below, get quick tips via the guide for ways to manage your child’s screen time at home:
1. Set Rules around Device Usage
Collaborate as a family to clarify rules and expectations around internet activity and home devices. Consider things like time limits, priority family commitments, and social engagement at home with each other when coming up with screen time guidelines. Coming up with rules as a family helps everyone be on the same page, and gives children structure in terms of time spent on their devices.
2. Limit Kids’ Screen Time
Most experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend 1-2 hours of screen time per day. Setting consistent screen time limits for kids every day and encouraging a variety of other screen-free or outside play activities will help your child’s development in other areas.
3. Establish Tech-Free Zones at Home
Enforce unplugged family time throughout the day, including a device free dinner or bedtime. Unhealthy eating habits are one of the ways excessive screen time can negatively affect all of us. In addition to addressing negative side effects, a media-free mealtime provides your family an opportunity to bond and connect with each other without distractions.
4. Encourage Offline and Outside Playtime
Face-to-face social interaction and outside play have a multitude of benefits to a child’s development. Encourage kids to explore offline activities, or play outside. Check out these indoor and outdoor activities for kids from Cool Mom Picks for great offline playtime ideas.
5. Screen-Free Bedtime
Another part of setting clear boundaries and encouraging mindful device usage is leaving time at the end of the day away from the noise and activity on the screen. Set a nighttime routine for your children sans devices. Work together to set up an evening routine as a family to clear away the clutter from the day, mentally prepare for the next day without stress, and set aside time to wind down and relax into sleep.
6. Let the Rules Evolve
As children grow, their technology limitations need to evolve based on their digital interests. For example, a middle schooler might be more interested in exploring social media, or want their own cell phone. Early guidelines will pay dividends in the years to come. Every year, revisit the discussion with your children around device usage and continue to explore intention and purpose behind online activity. Share your process as a parent in coming up with these guidelines so they understand how they make sense.