If you’re struggling to find the right balance, here are some easy ways to set healthy limits with your kids.
By: Laura Lebovitz | LAMFT at Grow Counseling
One of the biggest struggles parents face now is how to set healthy limits around their kid’s screen time. In the past, you only had to monitor how much your kids watched TV. Now smartphones and other handheld devices make the screen time possibilities practically limitless. It can be easy for parents to feel overwhelmed around screen time and like they need to cut out screens entirely. However, screen time can be really beneficial for kids within certain limits. Studies have shown that electronic devices give kids easier access to academics, help them feel closer to their peers, and even improve hand-eye coordination.
Know the guidelines.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that two-year-olds to five-year-olds should have no more than one hour of screen time a day. After five years, it is okay for kids to spend two hours a day with screens. Teens are not mature enough to be able to handle free reign with their electronics, so the AAP recommends close monitoring for overuse and dependence. Have open, honest conversations with your teens about what sites they are using and do some research on your own to make sure that you are okay with that media. Once you set these limits, try to stick to them as much as possible and encourage others in your kid’s lives to do so as well! There are also many programs, like Circle With Disney, that can help you monitor and control your kid’s Internet use. You can even check with your phone or Internet provider to see what type of monitoring services they offer.
Co-play or co-watch.
Too much screen time has been shown to have a negative impact on kids’ social development. While kids and teens report feeling closer to their friends due to screen time, an overuse of screens is linked to symptoms of depression and loneliness. Co-playing or co-watching with parents has been found to help mitigate that negative impact. Try to create a good balance of playing, spending time with friends, exercise, learning, and time as a family.
Establish a good nighttime routine.
Screen time before and around bedtime has been shown to interfere with sleep quality. Restrict the use of all screens at least 30 minutes before it is time to go to sleep. If your kids have a hard time accepting screen time limits around bed, you may even need to make a rule about leaving all devices with you before bedtime. Then you can rest easy knowing they are setting themselves up for good sleep!
Be a good technology role model.
It is so important for kids to understand when it’s appropriate to use their phone. Teach respectful phone and online manners just like you would for any other behavior. Look at your own screen time use and make sure you are setting a good example. Schedule family time that doesn’t involve electronics, such as no phones at the dinner table, going for a hike, or even entirely screen-free days!
Laura Lebovitz is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist that works in the Suwanee area at GROW Counseling. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with children, adolescents, young adults, and families dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with anxiety, autism, self-harm, life transitions like divorce, and building healthy relationships within families.