Kids are spending more time with screen media than ever before, and at younger ages. In addition, summer often provides more access and time for electronic use. While technology can provide educational opportunities, help us connect with others, and promote creativity (think digital art), it is also important to help youth to set boundaries on their technology use. Consider the following tips for managing technology with kids.
Limit screen use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) have provided guidelines to help families curb kid’s screen use to ensure plenty of time for active, rather than sedentary activities and interacting with others. While these guidelines suggest that children under one should not have any screen time and those under five should not spend more than one hour watching screens each day, there really isn’t a magic number for screen use in general that fits every family. What appears to be more important is that it is high quality, age appropriate media, and parental engagement in what is being viewed.
Some screen time is better than others. While not all media needs to be “educational,” you can maximize your child’s screen time by helping them to find media that helps them think critically, develop their creativity through creating new content (i.e. songs, art, etc.) or helps them connect with the larger world in related offline activities.
Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Watching and playing together can help to increase social interactions, learning, and bonding.
Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes and other social and family gatherings screen-free in order to build social bonds and engage in two-way conversation. Because electronics can be a potential distraction after bedtime, consider having an inaccessible place to charge electronics at night, or download apps that disable the device at bedtime to remove temptation from using screens at night.
Warn children about the importance of privacy and dangers of predators. Teens need to know that once content is electronically shared they will not be able to remove or delete it completely. Teach youth about privacy settings and be sure to monitor their activity to keep them safe.
Be a good role model. Children are great mimics, so be sure to limit your own media use.
Media and digital devices are an integrated part of our society today. They can be a wonderful resource in a variety of ways, but they can never replace the benefits of face-to-face interactions and learning. By utilizing these tips, you can help youth reap the benefit of these wonderful resources while keeping the benefits of personal interactions and learning at the forefront of youth experiences.