Screen Time: Time-ins and Outs

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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