How much screen time should I be giving my children?
This is a challenging question for every parent. I believe technology can be an incredible educational tool that help children learn. My parents were both teachers so instead of purchasing video games, we only played learning games. These educational games provided extra practice in math, reading, critical thinking, and typing skills that helped me be successful in school and in life. Due to my positive childhood experience, I want to provide my children these same opportunities. However, not all screen time is created equal. There are some video games that provide very little learning and are designed to be highly addicting. The digital documentary, The Social Dilemma highlights some of the challenges of social media. Technology is a tool. Our responsibility as parents is to teach our children how to use this tool appropriately.
Guidelines for screen time use
Practically speaking the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry provides the following guidelines for screen time use for children:
• 0-18 months: The only screen use recommended is video chatting with a close relative, such as a parent away on a trip. Otherwise, screens should be avoided as much as possible.
• 18-24 months: Educational programming is OK’d for a few hours a week, with a parent watching and playing along. The screen should be a supplement to an activity, not the focus of the activity.
• 2 years to 5 years: More educational screen time alone is fine, but anything non-educational should be kept to an hour per weekday and three or less on weekend days.
• 6 and up: At this age, recommendations are centered around encouraging habits and hobbies that don’t involve screens. Continue to limit non-educational screen use on weekdays while allowing a bit more on weekends. As kids make friends, and join more after-school and weekend activities, use their schedule and physical activity level to help determine what screen time is appropriate.
As the guideline emphasizes, the type of content parents allow children to use is at the core of appropriate technology usage. Learning how to steward technology empowers parents to equip their children to develop healthy screen habits.
Consider a few practical tips for technology stewardship:
• Learning Apps – Plan a consistent time daily to complete 10-15 minutes of learning time with your children. Complete the app with your child to ensure they are using it appropriately and help them grow in their learning.
• Screen Time Motivators – Consider using brief 1-3 minute videos such as short animal learning shows as First-Then motivators to complete chores, routines, or tasks. First the child completes their tasks and then the child gets to watch a very brief 1-3 minute video.
• TV Shows – Be mindful of limiting animated television shows that have a tendency to be more addicting for children. Consider using YouTube Kids or other apps to limit a child’s access to real life learning shows that make it easier to turn off the tablet once the show is over.
• Setting Clear Boundaries – Be clear with the child before starting screen time the parameters for how long they will have access to the device. Set visual or digital timers to reminder children when tech time is coming to an end.