It is important to establish electronic rules for children. Most parents, however, do not know how to set rules and boundaries to limit screen time and do not know how to discipline their child who is constantly on their phone or playing games.
There are negative effects of being on the screens for too long. Children who spend too much on screens have limited social interaction, poor eating habits, and they may develop emotional and attentional problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some may even fight with peers and engage in aggressive behaviors if they spend their time watching violent movies or playing violent games. There is also a possibility of being cyberbullied.
Many parents struggle with setting clear boundaries on screen time. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day.”
“If parents don’t teach kids about limiting electronics time, kids can miss out on the real world,” says Amy Morin, psychotherapist and About.com’s parenting teens expert. She continues by saying, “kids spend an average of seven hours a day behind screens. So what are parents do to? How can they monitor screen time?”
Here are some tips parents can use to monitor children’s electronic use:
- You should model behavior that you want your child to follow: If your child constantly sees you on the computer or on the phone, don’t expect your child to behave differently. You should be aware of the amount of time you are on screens and make sure you are setting a good example.
- Set up a schedule or time when no electronics should be used: I have a client who is on screens from the moment he comes home from school. I suggested for the parents to take away all screens during the week (unplug television, take away phones, set up passwords on computers) and only allow him to watch one 30 minute show once he completes all his homework. During the weekends, I suggested family or extracurricular activities. The parents reported back the following week with positive results. The child also mentioned that he now knows the limits and boundaries and does not ask for screens before homework is completed.
- Spend time as a family: Set up a time, such as dinner or before bedtime, where the whole family spends time together without electronics.
- Talk to your child about using too much screen time: Talk to your child about the risks of excessive use of electronics. Some children may not understand the risks, but if you set up clear boundaries and limits and follow through with those limits, perhaps they will take you seriously.
- Encourage other activities: Some children do not know what to do once screens are taken away from them. I once saw a child who said he could not find anything else to do with his time when his electronics were taken away. I spoke to his parents about encouraging him to engage in sports, volunteer, join clubs in school, or learn to play an instrument instead of spending his time on electronics.
- Don’t allow television or video games in your child’s room: Having electronic devices in your child’s room can make it hard for you to monitor his screen time.
- Find out your kids’ passwords: If your child is on social media, it is a good idea to get their password to social media accounts. This is a great way to monitor things such as cyberbullying.
- Eat meals as a family: Eating together helps children to get off their game consoles and engage with family members. This can be a great way to have a discussion about their accomplishments and to hear the interests of other family members. It is also a great time to discuss any upcoming activities or future vacations.
- Get children involved: It may help to involve your child in making decisions on how much time they spend with media. This may actually help in getting their cooperation in limiting their use of screen time.
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