With the rapid development of technology in the modern day, children are spending more time than ever on electronic devices. A lot of studies have shown that excessive use of the screen can affect the development of children, with studies referencing obesity, a lack of concentration, a lack of sleep, emotional anxiety, social disturbance and other factors. We have also heard many parents complain about their children staying on their phones all day and many seem to be believe electronic products hinder their child’s development too. Yet, internet and social media can also increase children’s interest in reading and learning. So how should parents balance this? What is the appropriate screen time for children? How can we encourage our children to use these devices effectively to learn? Can we prevent them from excessively using them mindlessly? Let us discuss these questions today!
- What is the appropriate screen time for children？
According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Children, a child under 18 months of age should not have any screen time, though as they get older, the screen time can be increased appropriately. The following is a reference table of screen time for preschoolers.
|Under 18 months||–|
|18-24 months||accompanied by parents 30 minutes/day|
|2-5 years old||1 hour / day|
|after 6 years old||2 hours / day|
- How to Manage Children’s Screen Time Effectively?
1. Set a good example with your own device use
Children see us as role models, so model the behaviour you want to see in your own children. If you start reading books or newspapers, they may also follow you.
2. Schedule “screen-free” mealtimes
Family mealtimes are important opportunities to connect with each other, and for kids to learn mealtime etiquette and practice conversational skills. For adults too, mealtime is an important time to switch off digital distractions. So, you might decide to enjoy a screen-free dinner with family.
3. Indoor or outdoor activities
Lack of entertainment is one of the reasons why children stick to digital devices. Therefore, parents should provide a variety of games, such as storybooks, musical instruments or sports, etc. In addition, you should enjoy the game with them, explore the fun of various activities, and organize outdoor activities.
4. Set up a shared space
Dedicate one area of the house to electronic devices. Here is where you store your phones, ipads and other devices. That way, you can observe how long children are spending on electronic devices. You may also download some learning games and apps for them or direct them toward educational websites
5. Agree an appropriate length of time that they can use the devices
Put in place a family agreement to set some boundaries and do not break them. For example, screen time is only from 7pm – 8pm, or only after finishing homework. Treat it seriously!!
6. Discuss together about the time they spend online
Parents should accompany their child when they are watching television programmes or using digital devices. You can try to understand what they are doing and explain your concerns. You should respond actively when children have questions during the process.
7. Electronic products belong to you
Children will cry when they cannot get what they want and ask for satisfaction. Before providing the devices, parents should inform children that they are not the owners. They should ask for consent every time and return within the specified time.
The right amount of screen time is an important part. Parents should design methods in response to family conditions and each child’s personality. That way, electronic resources can instead be advantageous in improving children’s learning and growth.