With daycares closed and parents working from home, keeping your children quiet and busy so you can get some work done is no easy task. Setting them down with an ipad will probably get you a few moments of peace, but too much screen time can be detrimental to your child’s development. Here’s why you should be limiting screen time for your kids, and tips for how to make it happen.
Why limit screen time
Too much screen time can cause a number of problems, including affecting a child’s sleep patterns. They may have more difficulty falling asleep or keeping a normal sleep schedule, especially if they have screen time right before bed, or if you have a TV in their room.
Too much media can also cause behavioral and health problems, like the inability to pay attention or hyperactivity. Over exposure to junk food commercials can also cause cravings for unhealthy foods. And not to mention, if your child is absorbed in a screen, they aren’t moving around and being active.
Monitoring screen time is especially important for children under the age of 2. Ideally, they should have no screen time. Rapid brain development occurs during those first two years of life, and young children learn best by interacting with others. Time spent engaging with people is crucial to their physical and social development.
How to limit screen time
Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do to get through the day. But hopefully these tips for limiting screen time for your kids will help make your job a little easier.
1. Set time limits
2 hours a day is a healthy limit to set. If your kids are currently doing way more, try slowly weaning them off and working your way down to 2 hours a day. Keep in mind, this isn’t just for TV, but all kinds of screens.
Have other activities and games on hand to keep them from getting bored and resorting to TV time. Taking some time to get out of the house for a walk or to go to the neighborhood playground will also help. You know what they say, out of sight, out of mind.
2. Establish parameters for screen time
How you do screen time is just as important as how much screen time you have. Designate certain rooms or areas of your home as screen-free zones, particularly your children’s bedrooms. If they need noise to fall asleep, try gentle music, a sound machine, or a fan instead. Establish a social area of the house as free of screens as well, like a playroom or a craft corner.
Also set guidelines around when they can and cannot have screen time during the day. Shut off all screens at least two hours before bedtime, don’t allow media at dinner time, and limit the windows of time in which they can choose to watch TV or be on the ipad. Reserve specific time for family activities or outside play.
3. Know what they are watching
Children’s television networks are closely regulated, but the internet is pretty much the Wild West. Be sure to monitor what media they are consuming and use parental controls accordingly. Also, it’s important to have an open dialogue with them about what they are watching, the themes introduced and the effects of what they are consuming.
4. Be the example
Limiting screen time is good for moms and dads, too. Children emulate what they see, so make sure you are putting the phones down as well. Your kids don’t just need less time in front of screens, they also need more time engaging with you and doing activities as a family.
While the screen time battle may not be a fun one to have, it’s inarguably important. And with many kids still at home doing online learning, it especially matters right now to make sure they are getting enough time socializing and learning without media.