Guest Blogger: Dr. Vardanush Ketikian
In today's society children grow up absorbed in digital media. With screens virtually everywhere including the classrooms, controlling a child's screen time can be a great challenge for parents. Too much and poor quality screen time has been linked to obesity, irregular and poor sleep, behavior/mood problems, speech delays, loss of social skills, and violent behavior. Studies are continually releasing new findings on the effects of screen time on our children. As a parent it is very difficult and frustrating to keep up with the latest research and figure out what is best for your children and family. I struggle with this balance daily and I hope the following information can help give you some insight on this topic and tips on how to navigate.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programs that educate and engage. Watch and interact with your children to help them understand what they are seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs that are engaging and educational. Parents should watch with children to help them understand and apply what they are seeing to the real world.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time, type, and setting of media use. Make sure media does not hinder sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. Preview programs, games and apps before allowing your child to view or play with them. The key is consistency.
Consider these tips:
- Create tech- free times. Meal time, homework time, school days, and 1 hour before bedtime.
- Create tech-free zones. Dining room and bedroom.
- Limit your own screen time, especially while they are awake. Lead by example.
- Eliminate background TV.
- Make sure to count up total screen time: TV, DVDs, video games, phones, computer/internet. Allow them to chose how they want to use their time (this can depend on age)
- Have a timer nearby for them to keep track of the time. You would be surprised at how much harder it is for them to ignore the timer than their parents.
- Create a system where your kids earn screen time: chores, physical activity, and homework. Enforce the idea that screen time is a privilege and not a right.
- Play games as a family. I love board games and cards, Uno and monopoly are my son's favorite.
- Shutting off and possibly turning in phones at night 1 hour before bedtime. Charging electronics outside of bedrooms (for teens).
- Find interactive options that engage and educate your child. Such as National Geographic, Mythbusters, Wild Kratts, Dinosaur Train, and Super Why.
- Use parental controls to block or filter internet content.
- Make sure your child is close by during screen time so that you can supervise his or her activities.
- Be flexible but overall consistent. Focus on the weeks/months than specific days.
I find that my kids end up using electronics when they are bored. During the week they are busy with school, sports, activities and homework which leaves them hardly ever any time for media. I focus my attention on being prepared for the weekends. I usually plan out the days so that they have plenty of engaging activities to do to prevent excessive screen time.
Ideas for activity boxes:
- Legos/building blocks
- Card games
- Arts and crafts
- Science experiments
- Dance to music videos
- Walk around the neighborhood/Scavenger hunt
- Go on a hike
- Go grocery shopping on Sunday mornings. Teach them how to choose healthy options.
- Get yoga mats and do stretches on weekend mornings
- Make bubbles
- Play hide and seek
- Take them to a trampoline park
- Play hopscotch