Big TV screens, ad displays, smartphones, tablets, laptops… a never-ending list of distractions praying on your kid’s attention. And the list of negative effects is certainly not shorter: sight damage, behavioral problems, aggressiveness, obesity, sleeping problems, etc. But on the other side, there are certain programs and applications that can be fun and educational at the same time. At the same time, we can’t deny the free time we gain when they are stuck on the TV. So, is there any healthy amount of screen time that would bring no harm? In fact, if we keep the screen time age-appropriate it is completely fine to allow your child to have some. Here is how to plan, schedule and allow your child screen time guilty-free.
Up to two years old
For toddlers, under 2 years old spontaneous playtime is way more valuable for their brain development than electronic media. They learn a lot from interaction, cause-effect observation, touching, squeezing, ripping, breaking rather than staring at some colorful screen moving. Electronic media can have some supplementary functions like playful music in the background, adding a third player in a game played by you and your baby. After this age, you can accompany your baby while watching while explaining to him what is happening and try to imitate in the real world. Reading, playing simple games can never be substituted by a passive screen.
Above 2 up to 5 years old
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen time for kids up to 24 months old altogether. If you insist on having some with your kid, then never alone and make sure for it to be really good quality. After the age of 2, you can start introducing high-quality programs but not more than 1 hour per day. While your child grows you can allow him more time, as there is no magic formula. Every kid develops at his own pace. But what should be the center of your concerns is really the quality of the programs. And these programs shouldn’t be transporting him into another universe in the sense of behavior. If you are teaching your kid politeness, kindness, mercy, playfulness make sure this screen time is in full accordance with these values, behaviors you are teaching him.
How to make sure of the quality of the programs
Check reviews for the movies and games you make available for your kid. Even better if you watch them beforehand or play them before your kid does. This is the best you could do to see the complete experience from the inside and establish what’s good for him and what’s not. Try to find games that involve him moving, checking, jumping rather than just swiping the screen. These games may include Geo-hunting games, where the kid is looking for hidden ‘treasures’, physical fitness games that require him to jump and perform certain actions in order to gain points. Also, make sure that he/she is under your sight while is having screen time. Use parental control to protect your kid from unwanted content. Time after time ask him clearly what has he been watching or playing with. If he doesn’t directly share it with you, it is a reason to make a check-in his browsing history. Possibly choose kids media channel free from ads and educate him about ads and commercials.
Don’t treat the subject of the Internet as a secrecy
Internet is among us to stay, period. Therefore don’t blur your kid’s minds by neglecting the proper explanation about it. You should rather teach him about it and educate him about proper, healthy usage of it and what he might encounter. Sooner or later he might see something unpredicted. Explain to him how he should behave in case he encounters something inappropriate. Teach him to be skeptical and think with criticism about the things he sees or reads. Equip him with tools that will help him establish the trustfulness of a website and the accuracy of the information he receives.
For children more than 5 years old
Now your child is able to do so much on his own. During these developmentally-important years, your priority should be to fill his time with off-screen activities. There are certain times and places where the use of technology should be limited like for example mealtimes, a certain day of the week, or a room, anyone enters in, should be unplugged. Discourage the usage of media while doing the homework. Renounce background TV. If everybody is working, playing, writing and nobody simply actively consuming TV content then just turn it off. It makes everyone’s performance decline and every process lasts longer. But if your kid today is having 6 hours school, 2 hours ballet, 1-hour meal, 1-hour shower, 2 hours homework, it is fine to allow him some screen time. Always making sure that the content is qualitative.
Teaching teenagers healthy use of media
Parents of teenagers complain in despair: the Internet is destroying our kids. But as with every other great invention, the internet is just a tool. Like the knife, you could use it to kill or to just cut the bread.
So, how do we do it?
First, lead by example. If you yourself are pouring every aspect of your personal life online then you give your kid no reason not to do the same. Talk to him about inappropriate behavior like bullying, sexting, and sharing intimate pictures. Tell him that if something goes online, it will be out there FOREVER, and sooner or later it will be seen by everyone he knows. Although you may establish e relationship of trust with your kid, always check and monitor him. It is just a question of time until he/she makes a mistake. And they should know how to act and where to go when such a thing happens.
Your child should feel that whatever happens to him/her you will be forever his parent, waiting to help him and unconditionally love him.