In the digital age, the use of electronic devices with screens and monitors is great for educating and entertaining children. But too much of this good thing can be bad, so moderation is in order.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, television sets, and gaming consoles of all shapes and sizes now make up a part of everyday life for most people, including the young. This is because most of these devices have become essential tools for learning, communicating, and even personal development.
[Image Credit: Miki Yoshihito]
It does not mean, however, that gadgets are indispensable and should occupy the better part of anyone’s time. In fact, according to research, their excessive use can have adverse effects on an individual’s physical, mental, emotional, and moral health.
Overexposure to electronics—and, by extension, too much screen time—can lead to physiological and psychological issues, including:
⦁ Blurry vision
⦁ Bad posture
⦁ Irregular sleep patterns
⦁ Weakened immune system
⦁ Reduced attention span
⦁ Poor performance in school or at work
⦁ Impaired social growth
⦁ Behavioral problems that could involve depression or violence.
To keep your kids’ screen time and device-use in check, here are five (5) tips:
#1- Lay down the rules for screen time.
The rules would ideally discuss matters such as the amount of time each day for watching children’s shows, listening to audiobooks, and playing virtual games; the place for these technology-supported activities; and your son’s or daughter’s conduct in the digital space.
If you are looking to deploy apps that will assist you in managing screen time at home, let your children know about it and explain your purpose. Transparency is always welcome in the family.
#2- Give your kids a schedule for screen time.
On the surface, a schedule for screen time may look like a banner that screams restricted freedom. But presented well, it announces to your children that you are granting them device-use privileges, which they should hold dear.
As for the time limit, the World Health Organization recommends no more than an hour each day for youngsters aged 2-5. For older ones, meanwhile, you can set it according to your children’s requirements and family dynamics. Alongside the virtual activity, encourage them to engage in healthy habits.
#3- Add breaks during screen time.
Being glued to the screen and sitting for long periods could have a negative impact on a person’s health, wellness, and quality of life. These sedentary behaviors have been found to result in “tech neck,” back pain, obesity and anxiety, among other conditions.
When drafting the screen-time schedule, try to break up the hour-long sessions into shorter segments. And between these segments, have your kids get up, move around, do some stretching and jumping jacks, and even play a charade with you.
In the spirit of fairness, let the young ones stop the screen-time clock during the breaks.
[Image Credit: Lucélia Ribeiro]
#4- Plan out the content.
Have a grasp of the digital material that your children will see, hear, and experience, whether the content consists of purely informative material or has interactive elements.
To make sure that the little ones are getting only the most appropriate for their age, preview the apps, games, shows, or sites that they need or want to visit. Be around for guidance as well, but give them enough elbow room for exploring fresh insights and discovering new knowledge on their own.
#5- Designate places for digital sessions.
Assign permanent screen-time areas in the house, such as the living room for watching TV, the spare nook for playing video games, and the study for doing online research-supported homework.
At the same time, keep all fixed and mobile screens off the dining room because this is where the family should be enjoying a happy conversation over a hearty meal. Keep gadgets off the bedroom, too, because this is where children should be getting enough sleep.
The thing about setting boundaries, both literally and figuratively, is that it helps instill patience, self-discipline, a sense of responsibility, respect for space, and similar values in the little ones.
[Image Credit: San José Public Library]
An Important Reminder
Limiting your children’s use of electronics and managing their screen time can be challenging but well worth the effort. After all, your goal is to help them achieve balance in life and shape them into well-rounded people.
Remember, though, that you should not use screen time to reward or punish the kids. A 2019 study suggests that doing so will only leave them more curious about the digital world—and more eager to get their hands on the gadgets, with or without your supervision.