Collectively, we’ve all got the same challenges are parents; raising smart, confident and compassionate kids. Today, this is no easy task. Relationships, education, nutrition, religion, safety and more are all a part of our tasks in raising healthy (physically, spiritually and emotionally) kids. While all of these areas are up to each family individually, one aspect of parenting that’s perhaps the most debated is screen time. How much is too much? What are the limits? Is all screen time bad? How do I deal with something so pervasive and ingrained in our society? I use my phone constantly, what kind of example am I setting?
All of these are great questions and something we all probably ask ourselves every day. Let’s face it: technology isn’t going anywhere. We need to adapt and help our kids make smart choices. If your child isn’t engaging in technology yet, they will be soon enough. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Here’s a look at some guidelines and what to consider when deciding how much is too much and when it’s appropriate to allow kids screen time:
- Weighty issues. One aspect of screen time to consider is the rising rate of obesity in children. Experts unanimously agree that screen time is a major contributor. Even if your child is young and not facing any issues now, it can become an issue when they’re older.What to do: Balance screen time with activity. Thirty minutes or an hour of time on the iPad should equal as much time outside playing in the snow, walking or running, or time at the playground. Indoor activities count, too. Dancing, playing hide and seek or anything that gets kids moving vigorously is all part of counteracting the sedentary screen time state.
- Age appropriateness. What’s appropriate for an older sibling may not be right for littles. It’s a guideline up for each parent to decide. What to do: Research each app or video and know what your child is watching. Keep them with you or in the same room to know what they’re viewing or playing. Technology is much easier for you to control when it’s in view.
- Make technology work for you. All devices come with restrictions. On an iPhone, you can limit screen time by automatically having the screen lock after a certain length of time. What to do: Help your child understand restrictions by creating screen chart. Use a visual aide, like and actual chart on the refrigerator, to help them see how many minutes per day is acceptable for technology versus other chores and activities. Make it fun and colorful with stickers. They can even ‘earn’ screen time with simple chores.
Remember, as with most things in parenting, it’s all about balance. Too much of one thing is never good. Teach your child that it’s perfectly fine to enjoy some time with technology but that other things are important, too. Lead by example and put your phone away when you’re with them for 20 minutes to an hour. Take a walk, read a book or ask them for help in the kitchen making a healthy snack. Most importantly, unplug and enjoy all the precious moments with them.
February is a month dedicated to love. There’s a lot to celebrate about Valentine’s Day when kids are little (and even when they get bigger). It’s the perfect time to express ourselves to our children, talk about loving and caring each other and ourselves. Kids feel a natural affection for animals, so that may become part of the discussion, as well. If you don’t already have a pet and your child is asking for one, how do you know when the time is right? At what age are children old enough to accept the responsibility of a pet? And how do you decide what kind of pet to welcome into your home?
All great questions and, of course, no easy answers. Let’s take a look at some issues to think about before taking the leap into the world of pets.
Timing. When to buy or adopt a pet all depends on your family and the type of pet you choose. There’s no perfect or idea age for a child to help care for a pet. However, if your child is just learning to potty train or just starting a new year at school, it might be best to let one major life change pass before bringing a pet home. Talk to your child about the responsibility of having a pet. Visit homes of friends who have pets and let your child see what’s involved. Read books to your child about owning a pet. One great book is The New Puppy by Anne Civardi.
Type. No two pets are alike. Researching breeds of dogs and the habits and upkeep of any type of animal is very important. Reptiles can make great pets (they stay contained and are fairly low maintenance) but children need to be taught about good handwashing habits, as most reptiles carry and transmit salmonella, a bacteria that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. If you’re adopting a dog or cat from a local shelter, be sure to observe the animal closely and spend some time learning about its behavior from shelter employees. Not all dogs and cats found at shelters previously come from homes with children, so there may be some adjustment time needed for the animal to warm up to kids. Still not sure? Try goldfish; a great starter pet.
Respect. Once your new pet is in the home, make sure you talk to your child about respecting animals and their responsibility to help them. Feeding, bathing, walking and playing are all part of pet ownership and your child can help with these tasks. Make sure your child is aware of your pet’s schedule. Encourage them to keep a chart, accessible to them and easy to read, that shows when the pet was fed, fresh water was given, etc. Show them that they are a part of the family’s role to help your pet have a loving and nurturing home.
Pets can be an excellent way to teach kids responsibility. Of course, Mom and Dad will be the primary caregivers, no matter how much kids help, so make sure your schedule and family dynamic work for having a pet!