Technology has become a huge part of our lives - and between the YouTube video rabbit holes, Instagram stories, addictive apps and Snapchat filters, screens seem to be almost constantly vying for our kids’ attention. Add in computers at school and family telly time, and it’s hard to go more than an hour or two without being in front a screen.
While there’s a lot of doom and gloom reporting about screen time being the enemy of effective parenting, there’s a lot to be said about its educational opportunities that we could have only dreamed of as kids.
Here are our top tips on managing kids’ screen time.
Realise that not all screen time is created equal
Just like with food, the quality of what your kids are consuming is just as important as the quantity. Educational programs or creative apps will offer more stimulation and development than a video game or social media.
Try to keep a limit on how much of your kids’ screen time is unproductive, and consider loosening restrictions around use of more beneficial activities.
Make screen time active
Another distinction to be made with screen time is whether it’s spent actively or passively.
Active screen time involves some type of engagement, like a learning-based app or interactive game. Passive screen time involves straight consumption of content, like watching YouTube videos.
Australian children are exceeding their quota of passive screen time (especially thanks to the rise of streaming platforms alongside social video services), so encourage kids to choose a more active use of their screen time.
Establishing use of technology as part of your family time together can not only be a good way to keep an eye on what kids are doing on their screens, but to turn screen time as something that brings you together rather than encouraging isolation.
Rather than stifling kids’ natural interest technology, showing how it can be used responsibly can be hugely effective in building positive relationships between kids and screens.
While giving kids a degree of freedom with their screen time is also encouraged, consider placing parent locks on their devices to ensure the content they’re accessing is age-appropriate.
Know when to turn the screens off
Part of developing a healthy relationship with technology for kids involves regular breaks from it, too.
We all know by now that the blue light our screens emit can suppress our bodies’ release of the sleep hormone melatonin, so weaning the kids away from their screens a few hours before bed time will help them get the sleep they need.
Having family time together with a screen ban - parents included - can also help to set kids up with good habits. Having a board game night or getting outdoors keeps a good balance against times spent on screens and creates fun family memories.
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