Parents truly have their hands full with all the technology today. Between school computers, cell phones, tablets, video games and any number of television and music sources, kids are lucky to fit in anything else if we don’t pay attention.
But how much computer time is enough? When should we pull the proverbial plug?
It really depends on the kid and the situation, but a good rule of thumb is an hour or two per day.
Expect a fight from your kids, but too much screen time has been proven to cause issues. Addiction to various formats, eye trouble, social problems, academic problems and countless other things can result from too much screen time.
There is No Exact Guideline
Generally, medical professionals are able to give us guidelines for what, when and how kids should do things. It’s nice to have somewhere to turn when we have questions.
The big problem is that no two doctors or sources seem to agree.
Some say an hour and others go as high as three to four. Nobody can lay out exact guidelines really because no two kids are alike and the situations vary wildly. This is where knowing your kid is key and being willing to pull the plug is vitally important.
As parents, we have to be able to use common sense in these situations. Think of it like candy. You don’t give the entire bucket of candy to your kid on Halloween night, and say, “have at it,” right? Probably not. You likely ration the candy over the next several weeks or even months, knowing that too much at one time is not good for young tummies (or teeth!).
The same holds true with technology. Screen time is fun and enjoyable, but like candy, too much at a time can have negative effects. You know your child best, so you know if they are able to handle 30 minutes a day or two hours a day. You know when the best times are for them to have screen time and when they need to shut it all off in favor of other activities.
Screen Time Alternatives
“But my child acts like he doesn’t know what to do when he’s not on the computer. He gets so bored,” you say?
Try these screen time alternatives the next time he reaches for the laptop.
- Read a book
- Play board games
- Play outside with friends
- Take an old electronic apart (with parental supervision) and see if it can be put back together correctly
- Build something
- Get creative and make up a new recipe to cook with a parent
- Volunteer at an animal shelter
- Plant a garden
- try creating his or her own stop motion video or video game
I’m sure you can think of more, but the point is you may need to come up with some ideas to get them started.
Go Technology Free
Be sure to consider your child’s age and the situation. No expert knows your kid like you do, so use your own good common sense and get them out from behind those screens on a regular basis.
One great way to do this is to go technology free every now and then. Put them away on vacations, special occasions and during important family time like dinner.
Make technology free events a regular part of your lives.
Actionforhealthykids.org has some great ideas about having a screen free week. Why not have one once a month?
How about no screen time until all homework is finished?
Get creative and think of ways your family can benefit from limited computer use.