Recently children have been prone to excessive screen time use due to greater accessibility from tablets and smartphones. It is understandable parents are busy and need rest time themselves, however, excessive use can be damaging to a child’s growth and socialization. Here are some recommendations on how to use screen time appropriately and reduce potential damage that excessive screens may be causing your child.
How to cut down on screen time:
- Lead by example
- Children follow what they see. If the child’s caregiver is scrolling on their phone while the family is at the dinner table, the child is watching and may internalize this as acceptable behavior.
- Have designated times and places where screen time is restricted
- If possible, try to section a room or sitting area in your house to be designated as the play room/reading room. No iPad’s or TV during set days/times. Another example would be to restrict the use of devices after school until homework is done, or to restrict/limit screen time at least an hour before bed. Give your child choices of other activities they can engage in.
- Co-watch as much as possible
- Being involved in your child’s environment may also reduce damaging effects of screen time. You can stop/pause the videos they are watching and encourage conversation regarding the show. To increase language comprehension/expansion you can ask wh- questions, ask them to retell the story/events, etc. This will also help monitor the content they are absorbing.
- Set boundaries
- Children are smart. They will try and find ways to break the rules that have been set. It is important to be clear in your expectations regarding screen time. When can they watch it, what can they watch, for how long, where can they watch, etc. What happens if they break rules? Can screen time be used as reinforcement for good behavior? Can it be taken away?
- Be consistent
- This goes along with setting boundaries. Be clear and consistent. Children might become confused if their caregivers are inconsistent in their expectations and this may cause stress and tantrums. To encourage and promote healthy screen time use, make sure your child is on the same page.