Now that school is out across the country, kids at home are more susceptible to over-indulging in online gaming, social media and or internet content streaming than they are during the school year.
Social/parenting experts say kids already spend too much time staring at screens — an average of seven hours a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy recently updated its recommendations about how much time kids should spend on their devices, providing a full list broken down by age. They recommend screen time for children under 2 years old should be limited to video chatting and for those ages 2 through 5, limit screen time to only one hour a day. Kids 6 years and older can have more screen time but need an hour of exercise. No children should be in front of a screen an hour before bed.
Having simple, easy-to-follow guidelines at home is a good start. Better yet, a schedule for "online time" tends to be helpful as well. Giving children the opportunity to "earn screen time" by spending time playing outside, doing chores, reading or really any non-connected activity is helpful, too.
There's a flipside to that though. Many of the creative or productive things children and teenagers do these days requires connectivity. According to Common Sense Media, "The idea of screen time as a one-dimensional activity is changing -- even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), whose screen time rules had been strictly age-based, is recognizing that not all screen time is created equal. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for lots of purposes. Designating their use simply as "screen time" can miss some important variations. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time:
- Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
- Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
- Communication: video-chatting and using social media
- Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music
Clearly, there's a lot of difference among these activities. But as valuable as many of them can be, it's still important for kids' overall healthy development to balance their lives with enriching experiences found off screens. These tips can help:
- Pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out online. If they're using high-quality, age-appropriate media; their behavior is positive; and their screen-time activities are balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free ones, there's no need to worry.
- If you're concerned about heavy media use, consider creating a schedule that works for your family. This can include weekly screen-time limits, limits on the kinds of screens kids can use, and guidelines on the types of activities they can do or programs they can watch. Make sure to get your kids' input so the plan teaches media literacy and self-regulation, and use this as an opportunity to discover what they like watching, introduce new shows and apps for them to try, or schedule a family movie night."
Limiting (not removing) your kids screen time to a reasonable amount is the key. Strike a balance, and your kids will be just fine!