The past few weeks has been an eye-opener for parents on many levels. One area in particular is the reliance on technology to stay connected, entertain, and educate. It’s no surprise that children and teens have access to more kinds of electronic media than ever before. Though just because it’s more prevalent, this doesn’t mean we should forgo setting limitations, actually quite the contrary. You can help your children create healthy habits by monitoring screen time and teaching them to use media safely and wisely.
Start off on the right foot by implementing these tactics at a young age. The longer you wait to enforce restrictions or limitations, the harder it will be.
Ways to limit screen time at home
- Start by looking inwards. Children learn many of their values and understanding of the world from their parents. Be aware of your own media habits and change them if necessary.
- Consider all electronic media when setting time limits for your family. Television, movies, the Internet (including social media), video games and gaming devices all add to your child’s total screen time. You may even want to consider how much screen time your child is getting at school.
- Familiarize yourself with doctor recommendations on screen time.
- The Canadian Paediatric Society discourages screen-based activities for children under 2.
- Limit television watching to less than 1 to 2 hours per day for older children.
- Avoid making television part of your regular daily routine.
- Keep television, computers and gaming equipment out of your child’s bedroom. This is also helpful the adults in the house. Keep them in common areas, where you can watch your children use them.
- Balance screen time with sports, hobbies, creative and outdoor play. Encourage your children to participate in both organized, more structured activities such as playing on the hockey team, joining a dance troop or being a member of Girl Guides or Scouts, as well as have plenty of time for self-directed imaginative play.
- Particularly for the pre-teens and teens in your life, late-night chatting or texting with friends, or the endless scrolling on social media shouldn’t cut into important sleep time.
- Talk about the importance of turning off cellphones and the value of being disconnected. Doing this is also a nice reminder for us as parents to be more present with our family and friends.
- Look into programs that provide parental controls. There are tools out there that can block websites, enforce time limits, and monitor the websites your child visits and their online conversations.
- Ask your child or teen where else he uses computers. Talk to teachers and caregivers about where and when your children are using electronic media. You may be surprised to learn that your child has more screen time than you think.
Help your child develop healthy media habits
- Get involved in your child’s media use — watch, play and listen with your child. Talk to them about it, find out what they enjoys and why. Preview television shows, music and video games to see if they are okay.
- Encourage your child to try different media experiences. Help them make good choices.
- Learn about the Canadian ratings systems for television, music, movies and video games. They can help you choose appropriate media with your child. A great place to start is Common Sense Media, they have their editors, parents, and youth weigh in on movie, tv show, apps, game, and book listings.
- Talk to your child about stereotypes and violent images in the media.
- Educate him about the strategies that advertisers use to sell products to children.
- Notice whether there are any changes in how your child behaves after watching scary or violent shows, or playing video games. It’s always a good idea to limit violence but be aware when introducing your child to what you think is age appropriate topics to see how they react.
- Educate yourself about ways people can interact with your children online. For example, is there a chat feature in your child’s video games or are they interacting with others through video or blog comment sections.
- Approach media access and screen time like other aspects of parenting. Your child needs to be shown what’s appropriate and inappropriate, handing them a device and assuming they will make the right choices is a naive approach.