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The question of how much screen time is too much is becoming a growing concern for parents! As we depend more on technology and our own devices than previous generations, technology is also more accessible to young children every day.
As mamas, we want to do all that we can to ensure that screens aren’t raising our kids, but we also want to give them a little freedom. And, to be honest, we have all had those moments as parents when we needed that parental break from reality, right?
What if there was a happy medium?
With a few carefully placed time management strategies, you can help your child become less screen-craving and rekindle your child’s ability to engage in screenless play.
While technology can be a good thing. the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child not be in front of a screen for more than 2 hours a day.
While that may seem impossible, it is necessary to have screen time limits and to take the time to set parental controls on all of your child’s devices.
As the Bible says, our eyes affect our hearts, so we must be careful with what digital media we set before our younger kids’ eyes. This includes TV shows, video games, mobile devices, and anything with electricity and the internet in today’s world.
Why are parental controls important?
Electronic devices come with no filter, so we as parents must take the time to see exactly what’s on each device. Even some preloaded content like a web browser, isn’t meant for kids and will give them access to social media platforms and inappropriate content that could be wrong for your child’s maturity level. Inappropriate content can include curse words, overly sexual images, violence, and target marketing.
Yes, you want your children to have a good time and screens can be fun, but common sense needs to come into play. Your younger children shouldn’t have access to the same apps that your older kids or you do.
Children are also in a huge phase of development, too much screen time can restrict physical activity which promotes motor skill development. Social interaction is important for children to learn how to have relationships, and boundaries and figure out how they fit in this world. Getting them away from the screens is a good choice because you don’t want them to develop behavior problems or even health problems from extended screen use.
What can I do?
Many devices already have specific apps installed to set limits. IOS platforms have Screentime and family sharing where you can set limits on time, restrict access to certain apps, and even require permission to download new apps. Android devices use Google Family Link, which similarly limits screen use and access. Many devices and streaming platforms come with different profiles that have parental control options. You can choose the appropriate amount of time, set content restrictions with passwords, and more.
Parental control apps can also help you monitor your screen time use, so you can serve as a good role model to your kids because they give you a heightened level of accountability as you seek to protect them. So, yes, mama, you just might have to limit your screen time, too. You can keep track of how much time you’ve spent on your device and how it’s different from the previous day or week. It’s true!
There are also additional paid or subscription-based apps that can restrict or monitor your child’s content or track their location.
Some families have instituted no-screen areas or screen-free zones in their homes, allowing devices only in common areas, such as the living room. This keeps devices away from the dinner table, family movie time, and even the bedroom. The goal is not to have your kids’ lives controlled by a screen. The nice thing about this boundary is it’s comparable to when we had to use the house phone in the common area. We parents can oversee (or overhear) what our children are doing online without being too invasive. This is especially helpful to discern which apps are appropriate for your child, for example, YouTube Kids may seem innocent and kid-friendly, but many parents report inappropriate advertising or pop-ups, had they not been present while their child was online, never would have realized.
What other options or tools do I have?
The most important tool is communication with your kids. It’s never too early to teach good digital citizenship, after all, you cannot be with them 100 percent of the time! Age-appropriate conversations about what is and isn’t appropriate, strategies for removing themselves from a harmful situation (bullying or sexual images on a friend device), confirming that you will love them no matter what, and encouraging them to always come to you, even if it means they write you a note if it’s too difficult to say out loud or they’re scared of the immediate reaction. Speaking of communication, family meetings are a great idea to get all members on the same page:
Have a family meeting to establish family screen time rules. Make a list of safe apps such as:
- Epic — a reading app where you can choose the books, even for your older school-age kids
- ABC Mouse
For other apps, such as TV streaming apps, take a moment and allow everyone to create a profile and set it for their age. Talk with your family about making good TV show streaming decisions.
Once you have the screen time rules and safe apps list established, it’s time to talk through how they can earn the screen time.
Here are a few ideas:
- School-aged kids can get screentime as a reward for completing homework, but only until dinner time.
- Helping with chores like, to clear the table at dinner, but only until it’s time to wind down for bed.
- Earn additional screen time up to a certain limit, by helping a sibling with their chores or homework.
- As a reward for spending 30-60 minutes playing other types of games or doing other types of activities and then taking a rest break.
Before you leave the family meeting, reemphasize why this is important, and discuss what the consequences will be. Be specific about if a device will be confiscated and for how long, will they lose access to a specific app or use of devices in a certain location in the home. As children get older it’s normal to push the boundaries, they can take ownership of their decisions to do so if they are aware of the preset consequences. The most important reason I have parental controls in my house is to set up as much of a safe environment as I can (with content filtering), so that when my children do push the boundaries, the likelihood of them suffering harmful natural consequences, like exposure to pornography or access to a predator, is less.
It’s important to set proper screen time boundaries for the whole family. Too much screen time can become a hazard to your home and can lead to strained relationships and behavioral problems.
Make sure that communication as to what’s allowed stays open and is adjusted as children mature. Understand that this is not a one-conversation, one-rule, one-and-done situation. Technology and our children are ever-evolving.
Protecting our children during the digital time in the world is a growing concern and internet safety has become a premium. Mobile devices are amazing tools, yet there has to be some wisdom instilled in both parents and kids to ensure that we are guarding our eyes and hearts.
A child’s device can either be a special and fun break from reality or a vortex that will cause them to change right in front of our eyes. For this reason, we can’t go any longer without disabling chat functions, setting screen time rules, stating what apps and websites are off limits, and helping them understand why.
As parents, we have to give an account of what we set before our children, so this is why establishing technological parental controls is necessary.
Technology is, and forever will be, a necessary evil. Stay on top!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by what it takes to keep your kids and family safe with all the devices, check out Cambelyn Coaching. Gayle is a wealth of knowledge and her site has helpful information. She can assist you in setting up things properly for your home and your kids, build connections, and keep tech in check!