By Jocelynn Buckentin, Technology Innovation Specialist
In my work with children of all ages, I encounter many types screen use. I’ve witnessed incredible learning from purposeful screen use, and the negative effects of excessive unstructured use. As summer approaches, managing household technology may be one of the biggest struggles that parents will face. Summertime is seen as time for exploration, fun, and growth and yet technology use can pose a threat to that if children determine their own usage. This can result in a lethargic or even belligerent child, which is not good for them and certainly not what you want for them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than two hours per day of technology use, and yet that can be difficult if not impossible to govern, especially if parents are working while children are home. I have five tips you can use to help you make the most of your summer while limiting the ill effects of excessive screen time.
- Create a Family Media Plan. The AAP plan helps families prioritize their daily activities by ensuring that academic, social and health goals are met first, with media time considered in the time left over. To create a plan with your family, visit www.HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan
- Start the day off right. Studies show that the beginning of the day is the most productive, so keeping children off screens would help set a positive tone for the day. Develop a morning plan that may include reading a book, going for a walk, or doing a chore. It would be wise to give kids a choice of fun activities to keep them creative and active before device use is considered.
- Find a time. Instead of forbidding all summer technology use, consider building screen time into your child’s day after they’ve had the chance to accomplish something or be active. Late afternoon is an excellent time for this.
- Embrace Boredom. No matter how many options your child has to fill their time, you may still hear complaints of boredom. This is a completely normal part of their development and happens because kids want to be entertained instead of learning to entertain themselves. Boredom allows their minds to wander, which gives them time to become naturally creative!
- Ride out the storm. Regardless of what amount of screen time you allow, expect pushback. On average, it only takes a few days for children and teens to adjust to limited screen time. While children may outwardly resist limits, internally they crave them. Don’t react, and know that they will accept your authority if you commit and follow through.
Now that we’ve established the importance of limits, we must address how to enforce them. A few months ago, I invested in a device called Circle by Disney, which can be purchased from local retailers. Circle allows you to manage every device on your home network. You can set time limits for apps and websites, create age appropriate filters, and set up off times and bedtimes. It also offers insight into your family’s screen time. In my first week of using Circle, I realized that we were on screens way more than I thought. This allowed me to adjust my expectations and create a better balance between on and off screen time. Do you know how many hours your kids use screens? If not, you are not alone. Most children use screens more than parents realize. I hope these tips will help you to ensure balanced and positive media use this summer and beyond.