In today’s society, it’s tough to monitor your children’s exposure to electronics every minute of every day. Children are exposed to electronic media from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed and almost every minute in between. How is it possible to limit children to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of just 1-2 hours per day? The following are 6 ways in which you can help to limit your children’s exposure to electronics:
1. Don’t get caught up in the idea of limiting electronics time to a certain number of hours. What can be done, however, is taking control of the time children spend at home. For example, designate “screen-free” times (i.e. during homework, dinner, chores) and places (no electronics in bedrooms) within the home.
2. It is also important to consider the behavior of children, both on- and off-line. There are many things that matter more than a child going online to check Facebook, Twitter or even email. Because grades can suffer from an abundance of electronics usage, it is important that homework get done first – and well. Another priority should be for children to go outside and play. Who knows, they might even meet another kid in the neighborhood! Once good, healthy friendships are established, social media usage could potentially enhance the relationship.
3. A long-held belief is that children need structure. Be sure to give guidance on digital life, just as with any other activity. Especially with small children, start with simple lessons and build as they get older. Teach rules and moderation regarding electronics early so that it just becomes natural and expected.
4. While on the go, don’t use portable media to entertain children. Instead of cell phones, portable DVD players or e-readers, bring physical books, coloring books with crayons, or puzzle games for children to entertain themselves. Better yet, play or read with them and be sure to model the same behavior.
5. Another way to help moderate the amount of time children spend using electronics is to plan TV viewing in advance. For example, children can only watch television when homework is completely, correctly and neatly done. If there is a family-favorite show, make a schedule of television time that also doubles as family time (note that not all family time should be spent in front of the television). It is important to use electronics as rewards - they are not babysitters for children, and they are the privilege, not the right of a child.
6. Finally, make sure children know when and where electronics may be used. Television should definitely be off during meals as it takes away from family conversation and bonding. No electronics should be permitted in children’s bedrooms. Bedrooms are for quiet and relaxation to prepare for sleep. Electronics interfere with this by cutting down on sleep time, and children tend to detach themselves from the family if there is something more interesting (i.e. television or cell phone) in somewhere else.
Setting boundaries and expectations early will ease the transition. Ensure that the children understand why these limits are being set, so hopefully they will have a solid understanding that you’re not doing this to be mean, just what is best for them. Be sure to leave comments below on how you help make sure your children are staying within the recommendation for electronics usage.
Stay tuned for “Electronics and technology (Part 3): Effect on sleep”.