7 Tips To Effectively Regulate (Not Eliminate) Your Kids’ Screen Time
When screen time is regulated, both the parents and children are happy.
Kids these days are more accustomed to using their tablets and computers as a form of pastime than doing physical play with their friends (piko and patintero are a thing of the past now). In fact, research has shown that children ages 8 to 12 spend 4 to 6 hours per day in front of a screen, while teens spend up to 9 hours using gadgets.
A 2019 study confirms that too much screen time contributes to problematic behaviors, such as aggression, social difficulties, and reduced sleep hours. This is why for years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended a maximum of two hours of screen time per day for kids and teenagers. However, the ever-changing digital world makes it nearly impossible to limit our kids’ screen time to under two hours. Especially now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and most forms of communication—even learning—are done online.
Parents have come to terms with the fact that technology is a valuable part of children’s learning, and that includes playing video games! So instead of trying to prevent your kids from using their gadgets, two moms recommend ensuring that the kids are using technology in a healthy, disciplined manner instead. Check out these helpful tips!
Tip #1: Explain to your kids.
Of course, you cannot implement rules without making your kids understand why you have them in the first place.
Katrine, 28, makes use of healthy communication with her 8-year-old son. “Recently, he started to be more into video games like Minecraft, which is normal because he’s a kid!” Katrine says. “But of course, spending too many hours in front of a screen can be harmful.”
She says that when she implemented rules, she explained how too much screen time can cause eye strain and sleeping problems. “Hindi naman kailangan maging complicated ‘yung pag-explain mo. Ang sinabi ko lang nu’n ay ‘anak, when you use your tablet too much, your eyes can hurt and you’ll have less hours of sleep.’” Katrine recommends being patient in making your kids understand why certain decisions are being made at home. They are more likely to follow rules because they know it’s the right thing to do, rather than follow them just because they are afraid you’ll get mad.
Tip #2: Establish reasonable hours.
“Since online class sila for more than a year now, imposible talaga na less than 4 hours a day ang exposure niya sa screen,” says Katrine. “What I do is I implemented a one-hour play time rule, so that he gets to play for an hour after he finishes his homework.”
This helps Katrine because her son doesn’t feel like he’s being suppressed with his play time, which makes him more cooperative and disciplined in the long run.
Tip #3: Set technology-free zones.
For 35-year-old Ellie, a momma of two, setting “technology-free zones” in the house has been helpful for her kids.
“For example, my children aren’t allowed to use their phones when at the dining table or when at the study area,” she explains. “This helps them focus better on their studies. Kapag kumakain naman, we get to converse instead of them just staring at their phones.”
Tip #4: Ensure that your child is viewing safe content.
Ellie recommends being involved in your child’s digital activities. “You don’t have to be nosy naman! Just ask what they’re playing or what they love watching, so you’ll know if what they’re consuming is safe.”
There are studies that show that being exposed to violent video games may cause children to become numb to violence, imitate what they watch, or exhibit aggressive behavior, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Always make sure that they’re consuming kid-friendly content!
Tip #5: Use parental controls if needed.
Several streaming and gaming platforms have implemented the “parental control” feature, which can even be used on routers, TVs, and Internet browsers.
By using parental controls, you can block sensitive and unwanted content or set up filters for your young children.
Tip #6: Be a role model.
Katrine emphasizes the importance of being a good role model to your children. If you have implemented certain rules, you must also follow the rules yourself.
“You need your kids to trust you, so being a healthy role model is who you should be,” she says. “I always follow our screen time limits to encourage my son to follow them too.”
Tip #7: Encourage them to have other activities.
While the digital world has (almost) everything we need, it is also best to encourage your kids to have other technology-free activities. Some examples would be playing at your garden, playing boardgames, teaching them traditional games, and the like.
“Every Saturday, my daughters and I have a bake fest,” says Ellie. “It serves as our bonding time, and at the same time they get to learn new things and take a break from the screen.”
Having other activities also encourages a healthy balance in your lives.