Screen Time Limits
When I asked my friends on Facebook for fresh blog ideas that addressed their biggest challenges as parents, the majority answered that they struggle with managing their kids’ screen time.
They wanted to know: “How much screen time is too much?” “What types of games are ok or absolutely not ok?” “How do I set limits when my co-parent has different ideas of what’s appropriate?”
This post will attempt to answer these questions and give you some resources to help you make the best decisions for your family.
Screens are not inherently bad
I think it’s important to acknowledge that technology is neither good nor bad; it’s neutral. How we think about and use technology determines whether it’s good or bad, helpful or harmful.
Technology is a tool. And just like any other tool — a hammer, for instance — we want our kids to know how to use it and to use it responsibly. So we need to teach them how, model it for them, and set some guidelines to keep them safe.
Screen time recommendations
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their screen time recommendations in October of 2016.
In a nutshell, it does not recommend any media use for children under 18 months, as the brain is rapidly growing and requires sleep, human interaction, physical movement, language, and adequate nutrition to develop normally.
Parents of children 18 months to two years old may introduce children to high quality, educational media (e.g. PBS Kids) as long as they watch with an adult, not on their own, so they can learn and talk about what their viewing.
For children aged two and older, the AAP recommends limiting screen time to no more than one hour a day. It reminds us that children need between 8-12 hours of sleep each night, at least one hour of physical exercise a day, and time spent talking with family, reading, eating meals, and engaged in other activities that develop a healthy mind and body.
Setting Screen time Limits
In my home, there are limits for my daughters (ages 8 and 11) around when and where screens can be used. For example, we don’t use screens during mealtimes. By 7 p.m., screens are turned off for the night and plugged into a charger outside the kids’ bedrooms.
When they do use their tablets, TV, or the home computer, they can’t download apps, movies, or games without my password. And whenever I want to know whether a movie, book, TV show, or game is age-appropriate, I consult the Common Sense Media app or go to their website and check.
When parents disagree
If you and your co-parent disagree about these limits, focus on finding common ground. Can you both agree that screens be turned off an hour before bedtime? Can you agree that R-rated movies are off limits? Start with that.
Then, to quote Stephen Covey, seek first to understand, then to be understood. Ask your co-parent to tell you all the reasons his view is the right one. Really listen to what he says and see it from his perspective. Release your defensiveness and be open to his ideas.
Finally, try working toward a solution you can both accept — including agreeing to disagree. Moms and dads don’t always see eye to eye and that’s ok. Read this post for more on presenting a united front.
To create your own personalized family media plan through HealthyChildren.org, click here.
What screen time rules or limits do you have in your home? What is the most challenging aspect of enforcing them? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!
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