When It Comes to Kids’ Screen Time, You’re Doing Better than You Think

It’s all about balance.

Stocksnap / Lauren Mancke

My daughter is only 11 months old and she is obsessed with my iPhone. I don’t give it to her on purpose, but if she ends up with it somehow it’s a nightmare to get it back. She just swipes away, mesmerized, and cries hysterically when I interrupt her.

Considering this, I’m already concerned about screen time. When Christine Elgersma from Common Sense Media hosted a workshop on “How to Limit Your Children’s Screen Time” at The Assembly, I signed right up. Common Sense is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of technology. Before their session, I was prepared to get scared straight into becoming a responsible parent who diligently monitors my kid’s access to digital media. Instead, after the workshop I felt reassured that exposure to technology comes with some benefits. I felt empowered with straight-forward tips to keep my child safe and healthy in this constantly-connected world.

Questions Parents Can Ask Themselves About Screen Time

Christine from Common Sense stressed that it’s all about balance. She presented some questions parents can ask themselves to gauge how well they’re doing. These questions stood out to me:

Do you have arbitrary rules or clear guidelines? Often parents will get this feeling that’s it’s been “too long” with the iPad and declare it’s over now. This creates an arbitrary rule for your kid and can lead to confusion and conflict. Instead, communicate clear guidelines — like you can watch two episodes per day after you finish your homework. That makes things easier for everyone.

Are your kids physically healthy and sleeping enough? You don’t want video games or time on the iPad to keep kids awake late into the night. If everything is going well in the sleep and health department, it’s a good sign that their level of screen time is appropriate.

Do they connect with friends and family socially? This can be in any form, including online. Digital media like video games, social media, or YouTube videos can be a problem if your children become isolated. For example, Christine explained that when children just scroll through a social media feed they can become more depressed or anxious. But when they use social media to interact with friends or family, it can have a net benefit. Pay attention to these signs.

Does it impact their schoolwork? You want to consider the opportunity costs associated with digital media. If it’s keeping your kids from other priorities, like their school work, you may need to cut back.

Are they having fun and learning in their use of digital media? Technology comes with benefits. For example, Christine explained that when kids develop a relationship with characters, like Peg and Cat, research shows that they’ll be more receptive to educational lessons taught by those same characters in learning apps. Keep your eye on the big picture, and if your kids are learning and having fun, it’s all good.

Our children will never know a life without internet. It’s our responsibility to help them navigate this new world of technology, instead of protect them from it. With these tips, you can do just that, without too much stress.


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