It’s not easy to control a child’s screen time. With phones, tablets, computers and TV screens all around them, many children find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to resist the temptation of spending countless hours in front of a screen. While some screen time can be educational and support their social development, the problems arise when that time is not properly managed and when screens take over the role of parents, family, and friends. So, what can we do about it?
Understand the problem
Recognizing a problem (“my child spends way too much time playing games”) is one thing, but understanding what consequences that might have and what alternatives we could offer is a completely different issue. Very young children benefit much more from unstructured playtime benefit much more from unstructured playtime than from using electronic media. Though some screen time can be very useful and educational, since you might help them understand how something they’ve seen applies to real life, we can’t replace reading, playing and problem-solving with passive screen time.
Spending too much time watching various content online can easily lead to obesity, behavioural problems, loss of social skills and other serious issues that would be very difficult to rectify later in life. If you are fully aware of all the potential problems of uncontrolled screen time, you’ll be more likely to take some action to prevent such issues from arising in the first place.
Provide quality screen time
Forbidding your child to watch programs, play games or use apps is not the answer. Instead, teach them how to use them and make sure they get quality screen time. There are excellent early learning early learning programs for your child available, that you really shouldn’t have any problems finding ones that are both educational and fun and that you can enjoy together with your loved one.
Needless to say, you should use parental controls to block or filter Internet content, but sometimes that’s just not enough and some inappropriate content can find its way to your child. That’s why you should be close to them during screen time so that you can supervise their activities. Apps with a lot of distracting content or fast-paced programs are bad for your child. Finally, you need to get rid of advertising on apps, since your child is probably too young to understand the difference between facts and ads.
Help them become digitally literate
As we’ve already mentioned, some inappropriate content will eventually find its way to your child despite filters. So, talk to your child and let them know that such situations may occur and tell them what you expect them to do in such situations. It’s important that your child learns to think critically about what they see on their screens. Help them understand that not everything they encounter online is trustworthy.
If you notice that your child is spending too much time using screens, you need to react immediately. One of the ways is to establish tech-free zones or times when no screens can be used. That can be during meals or one or two nights a week. Also, don’t let them use media entertainment while they’re studying or doing homework, because that would affect their concentration and efficiency.
Daily or weekly screen times and curfews should be established to include the time before they go do bed since you don’t want them to go to sleep with their brain still processing all that online content. Tell them they should charge their gadgets outside of the bedroom at night to make sure they don’t replace the much-needed sleep with screen time.
In a nutshell, you shouldn’t ban your child from using electronic devices, since such gadgets and modern technology will inevitably become a major part of their adolescent life, but you most certainly have to impose some rules and teach your child how to use their screen time. Screens can provide some entertainment and it’s only natural to resort to them for that purpose, but it has to be balanced with your child’s exposure to educational and informative content.
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