Are you living with a screen zombie? Nationwide, kids ages 8 to 18 years old are spending more than seven hours a day looking at screens – this includes phones, computers, television and tablets. But what exactly are your kids doing while they’re staring at the screen?
“Parents should know what their children are viewing and how they’re engaging online,” says Dr. Hilary Bowers, CPCMG Director of Behavioral and Mental Health Services. “Your child needs limits and is looking to you to set those limits. This will help establish good habits that will result in healthy technology use.”
Here are seven tips to help get a grip on your children and their digital devices:
- Limit the use of electronic devices to two hours a day (this does not include time in the classroom under teacher supervision). For children under the age of two, there should be no TV or device time at all (focus on in-person interactions instead). These recommendations are from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Forbid the use of electronics for 30 to 60 minutes prior to bedtime; this eliminates the impact of blue light on melatonin and means a better night’s sleep for your child (the “night shift mode” on smartphones and tablets does not adequately cut out blue light).
- Follow your children on all of their social media accounts (popular ones include Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok). Know what they’re posting and where, and know who is following your child and who your child is following.
- Complete a monthly check-in – have your child login to their accounts with you present. Review who is following your child and who your child is following – should anyone be blocked or reported? Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what sites they are visiting on the web, and what they are doing online.
- Remind your child that whatever they post is permanent and not private. It’s just a screenshot away from being shared.
- Create “device-free zones” – keep family meals, social events and bedrooms screen-free. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep. Also, no digital devices during homework time – focus on homework first.
- Establish a “family charging station” and recharge devices overnight in an area away from your child’s bedroom to help him or her avoid the urge to use them when they should be sleeping.
Another good option for families is to create a family media plan. This will help you successfully and thoughtfully incorporate digital devices into your family’s life.
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