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How Much Screen Time Should You Allow?

How Much Screen Time

How Much Screen Time Should You Allow?

As a 21st 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 always 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, by doing so, protect their children.

How Much is Too Much?

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 very 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.

Telling the Good From the Bad

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 to keep up with your child's electronic knowledge. In fact, you should keep ahead of it if you can.

Avoid giving your child free reign on sites anyone can upload or post to, like YouTube or Reddit. These sites often contain content that is not suitable for a young audience. As a parent, you may find it difficult to control what your child consumes on these sites. Parental controls can help you keep your child off of these widely-used sites.

Strategies for Keeping a Lid On Screen Time

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.

When to Loosen Restrictions

As your child grows, you'll give them more independence to reflect their growing maturity. Part of this is allowing them to spend more time on the computer, playing video games, or using some sort of other electronic. Eventually, your child will need to be able to regulate themselves. This starts with assisted regulation at home.

Slowly allow your child to spend more time with electronics. Perhaps increase their time limit from two hours to three, and then four, before removing the restriction altogether. When you first remove the time limit on screen time, monitor your child to make sure they're handling this new freedom appropriately.

If your child begins to spend all of their free time on electronics, or if it starts to affect their grades, then you need to step in and re-implement a time limit. Hopefully, your child will have a diverse range of interests that include activities away from a screen. Talk to your child about starting a new activity or two to help them balance their life, if need be.

Electronics are not the villain that some parenting websites or other publications make them out to be. They can be fun and educational. Having said that, however, moderation is key. With the right guidance and a firm, but fair, set of rules and expectations, your child will be able to enjoy their electronics without going overboard.

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