In today’s world, most of us are attached to a screen at all times. Many things we need for daily life include a screen such as a computer, tablet and mobile phone. How much time are your teens spending behind a screen? It is recommended to have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day. In our family, the limit is 2 hours of non-educational screen time per day.
Screen time has many purposes including educational, social and entertainment. Rather than calling friends, kids Skype or Facetime to talk. There are video games that allow multiple users to interact through play and chatting. A lot of homework is now on-line and my son is moving to an iPad school for high school. His entire high school career will be managed from his iPad. Times are changing at a rapid pace and it is hard for parents to keep up.
Screen Time Tips:
1. How to limit screen time
Even keeping screen time to just two hours for non-educational “play” can be a challenge. Tablets, phones, computers and game systems are entertainment magnets that kids are attracted to and want to use frequently.
A first step is to keep as much in the main house and out of children’s rooms, if possible. Our kids do not have TV’s or gaming systems in their own rooms so we can control usage. Another step is that kids have to keep their door open during screen time in their rooms so you can see what they are doing if you want to drop in.
2. How to decide when kids get screen time
In our home, entertainment screen time is earned after all other responsibilities and tasks are completed. This may even include educational screen time where homework assignments are done on the computer or tablet. There is no right answer and this is just a recommendation. You have to figure out when and what amount of time works best for your household.
3. Screen time for social reasons
Initially, I was very hesitant about allowing my son to play video games on the computer for two hours. However, he was playing with friends and even cousins as a team. In our new reality, kids do not go out and play anymore with their friends. They want to be on-line with them. We do have a rule that he can only play with people we actually know or the friends know. He cannot play with strangers on any games.
My daughter made friends at sleep away camp and uses Facetime or texting to keep in touch with them. It is an instant and efficient way to communicate with family or friends especially who live far away. We truly enjoy seeing cousins and grandparents on our phone that we may only visit once a year. It makes me feel like the Jetsons, but we encourage communicating with family and friends to stay in touch.
Neither of my children at ages 14 and 11 have accounts on social sites. There have been many parent meetings at our children’s schools on cyber safety. Each time the speaker says, no social sites for kids. Mine can text, email, Skype, Facetime and talk on the phone. However, I always remind them that, even though they do not have an account, many of their friends do and can post photos sent to them. Our rule is to never send a photo to someone that you would not want a college recruiter or future employer to see. They should also be aware and cautious of what photos or videos are being taken of them.
Many of my friends have children on social sites. The key is complete access and checking regularly. The kids probably understand the technology better than we do so you just have to keep up on it.
4. Programs to help monitor
There are programs to block and monitor usage for most devices. We have used Net Nanny for the Internet and Verizon family base for the cell phones. With new apps and programs coming out all the time, it is important to keep up on the latest options.
All of this sounds great, right? It is not as easy as it seems. There is a constant struggle for kids that want screen time and parents that want them to do something more important or creative with their time. My son will tell me he is doing homework on the computer and I can see him change the screen from a game when I round the corner towards his room. There has to be a constant dialogue about over use and how screen time can be used for more important things like reading a book, researching a hobby or watching an educational video.
It is also important to model the behavior you want. If you are tired after work and spend the entire night playing candy crush then that is what they see. If you are reading a book on an e-Reader, invite your kids join in and you can all read together.