8 ways to help limit screen time

Parents today must deal with something that our parents didn’t have to: managing screen time. With the advances in technology over the past decade, kids are starting on screens before they are even a year old.

Whether it’s a tablet, computer or gaming console, how much should you be limiting their time in front of electronics?

While some screen time has benefits, such as education, teaching language and literacy and learning how to use technology (and keeping our kids occupied on longer road trips), there are a lot of downsides to allowing kids too much screen time, like sleep and vision problems, focus issues, disconnection from others and even depression.

School is about to be out for summer, so how can we limit screen time when our kids have much more free time on their hands? Enjoying the peace and quiet of kids being occupied by phones, tablets, or video game consoles can be more appealing than playing referee when they’re fighting, but there needs to be a balance.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 5 have at most one hour of screen time per day. They also recommend that babies under 18 months should not use any digital media, including tablets, phones and television. It can cause overstimulation, sleep problems and lack of bonding between them and their parents. For children over 5, the AAP recommends no more than 2 hours per day of sedentary screen time.

Creating healthy routines when your child is under 5 will make it easier as they get older. Here are 8 ways to help.

1. Set time limits. If your child spends more than two hours a day on their device, start by reducing it a little each day until it gets to a reasonable amount.

2. Set an example. As adults, we are on our phones a lot, so our kids need to see behavior modeled that we want them to follow. Try to limit how much time you spend on your phone around your kids. Try leaving your phone in another room during dinner or other times that family interaction is important to you.

3. Make a checklist. Set out everything your child has to do before they can even have screen time. It can include basic daily chores like making the bed, eating breakfast and getting dressed. Then, add things they really need to do like reading, playing outside or cleaning their room. Make screen time something that they earn.

4. Give them other options for fun. Go outside, build with legos, jump on the trampoline or go to the pool, just to name a few. Download a parent control app. These will let you set limits on how long they can be on their device and set it to turn off after a certain amount of time.

5. Use devices as rewards instead of giving free access. Don’t just take away time as punishment. Parents should be on the same page. If mom has stricter limits than dad, come to a happy medium and both parents enforce the same rules.

6. Keep phones, tablets, and gaming consoles in a different part of the house at night, away from your child’s room. Most research links late night screen time with a reduced quality in sleep, among other things.

7. For older kids with social media, make sure to go over the basics with them. Once something is posted, it’s out there and can’t always be taken back. Set proper privacy settings, have control of their logins, be cautious of friend requests and don’t be a cyber bully.

8. While screen time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it needs to have a balance and knowing when to do something about it. Consistency is important, so make sure the established rules are applied all the time.