I have been seeing a lot on screen time and children lately. Here’s the thing, my son already gets screen time and I am not going to feel guilty about it! However, it is important to know that I have established rules for screen time!
You can do a simple “screen time” search on Google or Pinterest and see numerous takes on why screen time is negative. I am not arguing that it isn’t. It 100% CAN be negative. Though, these articles paint a picture that allowing screen time for your children makes you a bad parent.
Sometimes parents need a break.
We shouldn’t be making parents feel bad for granting themselves a moment of peace without having to hold, play, or care for their children. Allowing screen time for your children is perfectly normal and okay! Making some rules that govern screen time is, however, a part of this.
First, why does screen time have a negative impact on children?
Too much screen time has been linked to numerous childhood issues such as obesity, behavior problems like aggression, and problems in school. I am not sure if there is anyone who hasn’t heard of the debate on whether video games cause aggression. Am I right?
If you have been around children lately, you may have noticed some differences yourself in the way that you were raised compared to how children are raised now. Who has been asked by a child for their phone to play games? Everyone.
I won’t pretend that we live in a world where screen time is A-Okay for children all of the time but you can’t live in a world where screen time is non-existent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests 2 hours of screen time a day.
They used to also say children under the age of 2 should not receive any screen time. Though, they are now saying this may be an impossible endeavor. Now, instead of saying to simply “turn it off”, they give guidelines on how to do screen time. Why?
Because avoiding screen time is difficult to do in today’s society.
I’ll do one better than that. Not only is “no screen time” difficult to do but we need to recognize that parenting is difficult as well.
So, as much as we try to avoid it, screen time happens!
The articles and posts that we come across on various search engines make it seem like any screen time at all will destroy our children. New parents feel guilty about putting a show on for their child just so they can sit for 5 minutes and decompress. I have seen mothers have to justify why they turned a movie on for their kids or let them play an educational game on the iPad. They NEED to know that screen time can be allowed and not to feel bad about it.
They also need to know that making rules for screen time is a necessary step in allowing it.
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Know what your children are watching
Not only do parents have an obligation to know what their children are watching, they need to make sure that it is worth watching. Parents were horrified to find out that in the middle of child-focused content on YouTube, there was a character telling children how to harm themselves.
Parents need to watch with their children. At least until they know what it is that their children are watching. Anything new needs to be cleared by parents to make sure the content is appropriate.
When watching a child-focused show, you still may encounter things that you weren’t prepared for. Even watching the shows I have so far, I am surprised by the things that characters say sometimes. Sometimes the things they say to one another are mean.
Parents should have an open dialogue with their children about these shows.
In watching this content with your children, if you encounter a situation that you feel needs explaining, talk to your children about the behaviors displayed by these characters. Make the “bad” behaviors characters show a lesson to your children. Teach them that we shouldn’t say those things because they are hurtful and give them examples of how the characters could have acted differently.
Set a screen time routine
Find a routine that works for you as to when your children are allowed screen time and stay firm with this routine. My son, though he is not old enough to complain about not having screen time, watches an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the morning after breakfast and in the late afternoon after lunch. Those are the only two times that he watches TV and we stick very close to it.
The only exceptions would be if we have someone watch him and they need a distraction for a bit. As he grows, we will continue this routine.
No screen time in social situations
Aside from having a babysitter over, in social situations where we have guests over to the house, screen time will not be allowed. If guests are over for a special event, they are there to visit and most likely spend time with our children. Therefore, our children shouldn’t immediately ask to play games on their relative’s phones!
You don’t want your kid to associate screen time with their loved ones.
Monitor your own screen time
Since our son is so young, we hadn’t been monitoring our own screen time that much. I found myself feeling guilty at times if I was on my phone when I should have actually been interacting with my son.
This made me realize that I needed to make rules for screen time for myself!
I realized that limiting my own screen time would be a good idea so that I can start setting that example. Therefore, I started only using my phone and laptop when he took naps or if he was having fun on his own for a little while.
Setting this example shows your children the importance of limiting screen time. Having rules for screen time teaches them to have a healthy relationship with technology.
Enhance your child’s time away from the screen. Screen time is unavoidable. Even if you implement a “screen free” zone at home, children will most likely have access to the screen elsewhere. Whether they are at a friend’s house or at school!
So, when your child is at home and away from the screen, encourage creativity!
Promote independent play among your children. Show them that they can be independent and find fun things to do by using their imagination. When watching TV, children have the entertainment right there in front of them. They don’t need to put in any of the work. They may forget how to find entertaining things on their own!
Give them time to be curious and use the crazy imagination that we all know kids have!
These types of toys promote creativity by having children build. They also help children with social development. Who has played house when they were younger? Most likely all of us! Having items around the house that can help set the stage for role play is extremely beneficial! Kitchen sets, doctor sets, and more all stimulate children’s imaginations and helps them practice socially!
Finally, send your kids out into the world! Getting your children out of the house is one of the best ways to support social development. Take them to the park and let them play with the kids that are there. Let them learn how to create friendships!
Creating and maintaining long lasting friendships can’t be done behind a screen.
Parents need to know that screen time is not going to be the end of the world when it comes to raising your children. Sometimes, parents need a break. It is as simple as that! You should never feel guilty or be ashamed of allowing your child to have screen time.
You do have an obligation to make rules for your children regarding this screen time though.
Make time away from the screen fun! Keep them busy and constantly stimulate their creativity! You may even find that they have so much fun that screen time is forgotten.
By setting rules for screen time, you are setting standards for your children. They will learn great life skills by showing them what they can do outside of technology. You can foster teaching moments and fun opportunities to build your child into a grateful and compassionate human being!
Know that this can be achieved even when your children have screen time and never forget that you are a good parent no matter the reason for screen time!