As a twenty first century parent, you should already know that your children are more connected to the electronic world than any generation has ever been before. Television, internet, video games, and smart phones all offer electronic entertainment, socialization, and resources.
Our children not only have access to these things, they actually need to learn to use them effectively to survive and thrive in society along with their peers. Technology is simply changing and changing us as it does so. Still, a growing mind and body needs more than just an electronic hookup.
Though it can be difficult to know how and when to set effective limits, it is imperative that parents learn how and in doing so, protect their children.
Health officials treat all screen time the same, whether it is in front of a television, a computer, or a video game. This egalitarian approach means that according to their research, no child should be exposed to large amounts of screen time before the age of two. Studies have shown that young children simply do not benefit from screen time in anyway.
Instead, they respond best to interaction with those around them and screen time is wasted developmental time. After the age of two, children are able to derive limited benefit from interaction with electronic programming. The recommended allowance is one to two hours in a given day.
It is further recommended that this time consist of quality programming. This means that you should be helping your child to pick appropriate programs, games and websites. You can do that by checking ratings and previewing programs, games, and websites to make sure that you know what your children are being exposed to. You may also want to install software that allows you to use parental controls on the computer and the television. Whatever you do you will want to try and keep up with your child's electronic knowledge. In fact, you should keep ahead of it if you can.
Keeping your child's screen time to a mere one to two hours may sound challenging at first. The key is to provide them with enforceable rules and desirable alternatives to electronic activities. Insist that you children spend some time in active play immediately after school, for example. By the time they are done, it will likely be time for another activity, like dinner.
When your children do engage in screen time, make sure that you provide them with a timer to help reinforce the rules. In addition, keep computers and televisions in public areas of the house, where you can keep an eye on your child as they use them. Finally, when it is time to tear them away from the electronics, offer a desirable alternative, like a family game. Your child is less likely to object to the end of their activity if they like the one they are transitioning to as well or better than the one they have just finished.