Modern life means having technology surround us nearly everywhere we go. This information explosion leads to distractions, wasted productivity and a sense of disconnection from friends and family.
Finding the right balance between harnessing the positive power of technological innovation and becoming too dependent on machines as our sole source of entertainment presents quite the challenge, especially for parents.
Many parents fear their children spend altogether too much time staring at a screen, and with good reason. TV, computer and cellphone addiction damages both physical and psychological health.
Are you looking for practical ways to limit your child’s screen time? Try incorporating the following tips into your family’s everyday routine to strike a more perfect balance between the benefits of technology with our needs as human beings.
Set a Positive Example
The best way to teach positive screen time habits? Simply set a good example for your impressionable little sponges. While every parent inevitably utters the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” at least once, the fact remains that children model their behavior after their parents’ deeds.
If you spend hours each evening surfing Instagram, but you expect your little one to power down at 8 p.m., you unwittingly convince them to hide their iPads under their pillow for later use. Work on being mindful of the actions you take so your children can do the same.
Moreover, create a strict policy of forbidding cellphone use during dinnertime, and set the tone by refusing to so much as glance at an alert when you’re sitting down for your evening meal. Remind children to silence phones in public areas such as theaters and do the same yourself to reinforce this rule.
Keep Electronics Out of Bedrooms
Sadly, criminals take advantage of technology to do everything from stealing a child’s Social Security number for opening new credit accounts to selecting victims for sex crimes and even human trafficking. Prohibiting your children from using their electronic devices in the bedroom helps reduce the risk of your child falling victim to a predator.
In addition, banning the use of electronics in unsupervised areas may protect your child from cyberbullying. Teen suicide rates rose markedly between 2010 and 2015 and cyberbullying played a significant role in this increase. Make children use their electronic devices only in the living room, family room or kitchen where a quick glance can reveal inappropriate online behavior.
Play with Your Kids
Children do need a host of activities to engage their busy minds, so cutting down on electronics use involves introducing them to other fun things to do while unplugged. Over-reliance on electronics for entertainment stunts a child’s emotional, cognitive and behavioral growth. In addition, too much sedentary time leads to obesity and further health issues later in life.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all children get 60 minutes of outdoor playtime per day, but many get less than seven minutes of unstructured playtime in reality. Take the kids to the park to toss a football or a baseball around. Let them build jump-worthy piles of leaves and create sand or mud sculptures. Getting your kids outside and moving prevents obesity while also letting kids burn off excess energy, leading to more positive indoor behavior.
Know and Keep All Passwords
Keeping track of all your children’s electronic passwords serves a dual purpose: It keeps children safer by allowing parents to review their child’s online behavior for potential bullying or stalking and it saves many a temper tantrum when one of the little ones inevitably forgets their login information.
Make obtaining your children’s passwords a learning opportunity for them. Use the time when you’re updating or changing passwords to review the elements involved in creating a strong password hacker can’t easily guess.
Control or Cut the Cord
Finally, consider utilizing technology itself to limit your child’s exposure to so much screen time, or at least prevent them from navigating to suspicious websites or watching sketchy movies. Teach yourself how to use the parental control on your television and block channels featuring content you find objectionable. Alternately, consider cutting the cable cord altogether by using streaming services like Netflix, which you can easily put in children’s mode.
Likewise, when it comes to shutting down screen time while engaged in family activities like dinner or game night, use Google WiFi or a similar network to instantly block internet connection for a specified period of time. Your kids may not like it at first, but you can use that resentment to allow them to earn more online time in exchange for making good choices.
It’s All About Balance
Teaching good screen time habits can prove difficult in a time when many of us rely on robotic-like devices such as Alexa to keep information available. However, learning how to unplug at certain times ensures that your children will grow up with better interpersonal skills and healthy electronics-use habits that will benefit them for a lifetime.
Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Ruffled, and more!