Computer, TV and smartphone use is part of life in the digital age. And there is certainly some fun, interesting and educational content to be consumed using these devices. However, as we remind parents at our North Denver pediatrics office, too much “screen time” can be harmful to a child’s mental, emotional and physical health. Consequently, it’s important for parents to take steps to ensure that kids learn how to use these devices in moderation.
Strategies for Managing Your Child’s Digital Diversions
With our devices providing such an enticing connection with the things we care about—from friends and family to sports teams to fictional characters—it can be hard to walk away from them for any period of time. So how, as a parent, do you begin encouraging (and ultimately enforcing) some time without digital diversions for your kids?
A conversation is a great place to start. Simply imposing a new set of rules out of the blue without explaining why they are good for a child is not likely to go over well. But, explaining that the goal is to make them a happier, healthier kid frames the change as something positive. Another helpful step is to eliminate the use of TV as “background noise” while they are doing homework, etc. If nobody is actively watching the TV, it should not be on. Play some music instead. Or, even better, help your child become comfortable with silence.
It’s also a good idea to make a child’s bedroom an electronics-free zone. Have them watch TV or use the computer in the family room or office. And, set time limits on device use. For example, you might say that no screen time is allowed before school or within an hour or two of the child’s bedtime, and that a total of two hours (or less) is allowed each day.
Provide Desirable Substitutes
It’s especially important when first requiring children to cut back on screen time to suggest alternatives. If they’ve been occupying a significant number of hours with TV or video games, it may be difficult initially for them to come up with things to do offline. Encourage them to head outside to play, or join them in a board game or craft project. Over time, they’ll develop a mental checklist of fun things to do that don’t require an electronic device.
It’s also crucial that you lead by example. You can expect a great deal of pushback if you require your children to step away from their laptop while you spend the whole evening in front of yours. Children naturally model the behavior of the adults in their life. Be sure you’re setting a good example. And, ask other adult caregivers to enforce your rules and to model moderation as well.
Encouraging Families to Find the Right Balance
Despite the potential for overuse, technology isn’t a bad thing. We simply need to be thoughtful in how we capitalize on it and where we put it on our list of priorities. With your help, your children can grow up understanding the importance of a healthy balance between the digital and physical worlds.
To make an appointment at our North Denver pediatrics office, call us at 303-430-0823.