These days we are more interconnected than ever before. And while that brings huge advantages to our everyday life, it also leaves our children exposed to various media wherever they turn. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and plain personal computers are all very alluring in the eyes of children. However, they can also be very addictive and leave some unwanted consequences, so limiting screen time for children is something many parents will opt for, although that may turn out to be quite a struggle. Therefore, let’s see how you can reduce screen time in such a manner that will best suit both you and your child.
Why is limiting screen time for children necessary?
Limiting screen time for your kid can bring them many benefits. Some studies suggest those above eight years of age spend more than 7 and a half hours EVERY DAY in front of a screen. Now, we all know that watching something is not exactly an activity that demands a lot of physical effort, meaning that if you reduce screen time you will be impacting your child’s health in a very positive way. More physical activity means less chance for obesity, and your kid will automatically be in better shape and have more energy. Furthermore, more energy means more concentration, so children who spend less time in front of screens generally do better at school.
Not only that, but a study in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, conducted on US children for more than 10 years, has found that increased screen time is directly correlated with lower cognitive abilities, including language and memory.
Therefore, it is important to act early and come up with other things for your child to do. The more engaged you are, the better your child will be doing across the board. That being said, it is clear that fighting the addictiveness of video games and everything else the internet has to offer is quite a challenge. However, rules are obviously not the same for all children, especially when you consider their age.
Screen time recommendations by age
Obviously, the older your child gets the more screen time they can take. It should be noted that there is a marked difference between educational and entertainment material children can access online, so don’t hesitate to show some leniency if your child is actually using their screen time to learn something new, be it with the help of Wikipedia or by watching an educational video. However, some general screen time recommendations by age do exist and they can be summarized as follows:
|children up to 18 months*||18-24 months*||2-5 years old**||6 years and older|
|avoid screen unless video chatting||less than an hour of high-quality programs||1 hour per day||2 hours per day|
Fortunately, you can use the technology to show you how to reduce screen time.
Best free apps to limit screen time
You may not always be around to check what your kid is doing, but there are ways to maintain control. For example, you can tell your kid that the only way they’re getting a smartphone is if they have an app installed that lets you control how much time they spend on the phone. One of the best free apps to limit screen time is certainly Social Fever because it provides detailed info on how much the phone is being used and allows you to set a time limit while being very easy to use.
Other good app to monitor phone usage is OffTime, which lets you decide how much a certain app can be used, or you can even lock an app on a phone completely with App Detox. There are plenty of high-quality products in all major app stores, and most of them are completely free. Indeed, many people are concerned about this issue just as you are, so with just a little bit of digging you will be able to find exactly what you need.
Time limits for Facebook and other social networks
One of the biggest problems when it comes to limiting screen time for children are social networks. It’s really hard to deny your kid access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or something like that because the chances are all their friends already have profiles there. If your kid misses out on something like that, they could be ostracised in school, for example.
About a year ago, Facebook and Instagram introduced their time limits which allow you to get notified when you reach a threshold you set for yourself and provide data on your screen time and even the ability to mute notifications. To access all of that, you can just go to the settings and select Your Time/Activity. Do note, however, there is no option to actually impose a time limit on your child this way when it comes to using Facebook or something similar.
Fortunately, there are other apps to help you monitor screen usage when it comes to social networks. Kids Place is one of the best free apps you can get for this particular purpose because not only does it help you control screen time but it also allows you to create a schedule relating to when a certain app can be used. This means that you don’t have to worry about your kid staying up late typing with their friends – bedtime will mean bedtime. Benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated, and the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend that children between the ages of 8 and 11 get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night.
Other methods for limiting screen time for children
Naturally, it would be wrong to put your trust completely in apps for monitoring phone usage. There are plenty of other ways to reduce screen time, all of which can actually be quite beneficial for you child. Let’s start with the obvious – try to get them into sports. Swimming is an excellent choice, but any other sport will do just fine. Remember what we said earlier about obesity? Sports are a perfect way to fight that.
But not all children will show an interest in sports. Don’t force anything on them as there are plenty of other activities that can benefit them much more than prolonged screen time. Art is a fantastic way to help your children develop their creative side, but even playing a simple board game (Mouse Trap was always my favorite) will be of immense help, not to mention reading books (true, this is not much of a physical activity, but it does wonders for cognitive development). There are plenty of things the little ones can do, just don’t force them into anything and help them find a hobby they will love.
Connect with your children!
Finally, and most importantly, connect with your children. Don’t let apps which monitor phone usage do all the work. Provide alternatives for your children and show them how many different things there are to do. Take them on a day trip somewhere, pick up a ball or a toy and just dedicate some time to them. Don’t just set restrictions, show them that you care and show them by example that there is much more to do. You are their best role model.
The decisions you sometimes have to make can be tough. But do give your children the courtesy of explaining your reasoning behind it. They may be more attentive and understanding than you think. Besides, at a young age children soak in knowledge like sponges, so when you explain something to them it will often cause them to stop and reflect on that. This will help them make the same choice as you later.
Finally, remember that the early years are when you can actively participate in the early learning process at home, through some thought-provoking questions or explanations which can be given as you play. Teach them the importance of washing hands before meals and stuff like that and ask them every now and again if they remember why they have to do it. Show them the cause and effect of certain actions and try to spark their curiosity. You’ll be surprised how quickly this period of learning and amazement passes. They won’t always be toddlers, so create precious memories with them in this period, memories that will surely last you a lifetime.
Limiting screen time for children is a must if you want your baby to have a healthy childhood, both in a mental and in a physical sense. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that children should be banned from any and all contact with the media, but some restrictions have to be in place. Given the nature of modern life, it is quite possible that you won’t be able to oversee everything your kid does on various devices, but fortunately there are apps to help you monitor phone usage and screen time in general. Pick the best one and install them – they are free, easy to manage and can help you and your child a whole lot.
If you’re not sure how to reduce screen time apart from relying on technology, you don’t have to worry – literally anything will do. You only have to show interest in your child’s life and activities and suggest something you can do together and you will all be much happier because of it. It all boils down to spending some quality time with your toddler, really. Limit screen time through sports, games, trips or any form of art to become a part of your child’s childhood.