Screen time is becoming a necessary part of life. Although we may limit our social media usage, we also use electronics for things like catching up on the news, keeping in touch with friends and family, and our kids use electronics for school work. Even preschoolers and infants are getting screen time with teaching video games and television shows. Some screen time is certainly necessary, but when does it become excessive?
The American Academy of Pediatrics put together their guidelines for reasonable electronic usage.
For little ones under 18 months, screen time is not recommended, in fact, it should be avoided. It can be distracting for both the child and the parent. Infants need face-to-face time with adults for healthy brain development. If parents’ are too distracted by their phone or TV, babies are deprived the attention they need.
Children from 2 to 5 years old need to be limited to just one hour a day. And that time should be well spent with either an educational program or game, or video chatting with a family member on Skype or Facetime.
For children 6 years and older, their usage should be limited by what the family and school needs are, but screen time should be focused on productivity instead of entertainment. Essentially, school, homework, physical activity, social interaction, and sleep should be priorities. Anything that’s left can be allowed for screen time.
Anything more than these guidelines is generally seen as excessive electronic usage.
Screen time can become addictive, especially teens who interact with their friends through social media. Not only do they develop poor social skills because they aren’t interacting with people face-to-face, they can also experience some physical problems. These can include gaining or losing weight, not being able to sleep, backaches and headaches, and blurred vision. There are emotional symptoms as well including depression, anxiety, isolation, defensiveness, and dishonesty.
If you notice your child experiencing these things, it’s time to step in and take control of their screen time. And possibly consider professional help as well.
So how do you help your child cut back, especially when you’ve already been pretty lenient about how much screen time they’re allowed? There are a few things you can do to help bring your child’s electronic usage under control.
1. Be a good role model. If you have an excessive use of electronics, your child will learn that this behavior is acceptable. Cut back on your own usage and make a point to be more present when spending time with your kids.
2. Create “electronic-free” zones. The family dining table is a good place to make “electronic-free.” Enjoy your family meal times without phones or TV’s so that you can connect with each other and teach your kids how to interact with other people face-to-face.
3. Have “electronic-free” times. Homework time, pre-bed time, and family time should be “electronic-free.” Or have a set time each day or evening that all electronics are turned off and put away.
4. Educate your kids on the dangers of screen time usage. Help your kids to understand why you’re cutting their screen time and the health dangers too much screen time can cause. Kids are more willing to go along if they understand why it’s important.
With electronic usage at an all-time high, it’s important to keep an eye on your kids and how much screen time they’re getting. The problem will be easier to handle if you catch it before it gets out of control.
A fun way to help them unplug is to introduce them to activities like Yoga. Yoga allows kids to learn how to exercise control over their minds through their bodies. Yoga is great for stimulating thought, growing self-esteem, and sharpening focus—three areas where electronics can fail kids. Try the poses in the video below together to get started. You can find more videos like this on our YouTube channel.