By Jenna Kruse, LSW, Youth First, Inc.
Over the last decade, there has been a boom in technology advancement and an increase in screen time for both adults and children. As a result, there has also been a noticeable increase in stress, anxiety, and depression.
According to The Very Well Family, the average amount of time American children spend on a device is four to six hours per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour a day for children ages two to five and no screen time for children under eighteen months.
The benefits of limiting screen time for your child would include, but are not limited to: improved sleep habits, better focus and brain function, increased academic success, decrease in obesity, better vision, and lower risk of anxiety and depression.
As we all know, limiting screen time is easier said than done in a society where we are so connected on social media, Zoom, and FaceTime. Beyond communication, we also use our devices frequently for entertainment.
The following are specific strategies for setting screen time limits at home:
- Set your daily limit and stick to it. Doing this establishes clear rules for your child. This will be difficult at first, but after a short time your child will learn what to expect. Try your best not to give in to bargaining and tantrums from your child, as this will become a learned skill to acquire more time on their device.
- Do not allow your child to have any electronic devices in their bedroom. Children who have devices in their bedroom get less quality sleep and are more tempted to use their device. Set a “bedtime” for your child’s device each night. Have your children plug their device into the charger in a designated space outside their bedroom at a specific time. Set clear boundaries and expectations.
- Monitor the content your child is taking in and sending out. Children are impulsive and can click on links that allow access to information they should not be receiving. Your child’s device is your device. Monitor the texts they are sending and receiving; this will allow for teachable moments and discussions as needed.
- Create “phone free spaces.” This boundary ensures that balance is found and that time on a device is not taking away from personal connections. This could look like setting all devices on airplane mode during family dinner or family game night.
Studies show that new habits generally take a week to a month to form, but once changes are made, it does not take long to notice improvements. Your child’s healthy future will be worth every tantrum, bargaining session, or disagreement over your new boundaries to decrease screen time.
Technology can be a very positive thing as it allows for learning and connection. Allowing your child to use a device is okay, but help your child find a healthy balance.