For children in their formative years, screen time is a double-edged sword. Our growing dependence on technology can have negative effects on how children develop social and other abstract problem-solving skills in everyday life. But at the same time, smart devices allow children access to so much useful and practical information necessary for raising productive members of society, including an intuitive understanding of developing technology. This is why it’s important to find a healthy balance for children when it comes to the amount of time they spend on their devices.
1. Don’t Use Screen Time as a Reward
One of the most significant effects of humanity’s growing dependence on technology is how parents sometimes use screen time to reward children. While this can feel like a harmless way to veer away from problematic rewards like sugary treats or expensive gifts, using screen time as a reward only serves to further make digital devices more addictive. First Moms Club argues that it’s in your child’s best interests to minimize the special status that’s all too often awarded to digital devices. Digital devices should be seen more as useful tools instead of addictive treats.
2. Set Tech-Free Zones at Home
Being assertive about restricting screen time at home is a given. But what most parents haven’t tried is creating tech-free spaces at home. Bedrooms are a good start, and this comes with the added bonus of improving sleep patterns. The dining table, the family room, and the backyard are also good places to declare tech-free. This shows children that some parts of life are best experienced without glancing at a screen every 10 seconds.
3. Help Your Child Commit to a Sport
One of the best ways to counter the highly addictive effect of electronic screens is by finding a sport that your child is genuinely interested in. Not only will this provide a distraction against digital screens, it can also give him or her an early opportunity to develop crucial mental and physical skills. If it’s a team sport, there’s also the added bonus of promoting mixed-aged play, which can foster unique opportunities for growth. Nonetheless, whether it’s committing to a team or solo sport, it’s a developmental opportunity that doesn’t involve your child staring at a screen.
4. Curate and Limit Your Child’s Screen Time
Too much screen time is not a unique problem in households, as it’s something that is happening across the country. Communication experts from Maryville University reveal that there was a 63% year-over-year increase in global media traffic in 2016, and these rates are only expected to skyrocket with the continuous growth of technology. On average, children now spend around 2-3 hours a day in front of screens — more than double the maximum number recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. And while it’s not possible or practical to completely cut off your child’s access to media, it is useful to be selective about how they interact with the screen.
When curated and limited properly, quality interactive media that is age-appropriate with specific educational goals can help your child with topics like language and literacy. In fact, research from the University of Wisconsin found that toddlers learn more from interactive digital media than from watching television or videos alone. This means that when your kids use the interactive and engaging features on the Mother Goose App, it will both entertain and teach them crucial concepts that will help in their cognitive development.
5. Follow Your Own Rules
Practice whatever screen time-related rules you preach. NBC News recently got in touch with parenting specialists to determine realistic screen time solutions for children, and they determined that hypocrisy is a primary challenge for parents in policing screen time.
Indeed, it’s especially hard to set limits for children if parents don’t have any for themselves. It’s all about setting a good example: For starters, respect your own home’s tech-free zones. And remember that how you conduct yourself around digital devices will inevitably be picked up by your kids.
For more information and tips regarding screen time safety, Mother Goose Club’s Facebook Group, Parent Resources for Children’s Media, is a valuable resource. Join the conversation there!