Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?
Parents know instinctively that young children need to run and play. They need to create their own play universe and go outside to exercise their muscles. They need unstructured time to make up games and act out their stories.
Instead, many children are choosing to stay indoors and have “screen time.” Those screen time minutes are more precious to them than dessert. And now with the pandemic, kids are also sitting in front of screens for long hours to receive their education. Should we be worried?
Well, yes. Early childhood experts do worry that today’s kids are sitting passively in front of screens for far too many minutes each day. They remind us that:
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all screens be turned off at least thirty minutes before bedtime and that televisions, computers and other screens not be allowed in children’s bedrooms.
So how much screen time is right for your children? The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Plan is one way to determine how many minutes of screen time are healthy for your family. Take a bit of time to go through their evaluation as a means of determining screen time goals for the whole family.
General guidelines for screen use in young children are:
Virtually no one believes it’s a good idea for children to spend long hours playing video games or using screens for entertainment, which is why many families realize their children are too attached to their screens and spend more time on them than is healthy.
Establishing Family Rules
It’s very important that your family set clear, enforceable rules for screen use. You’ll want to preview games, apps, and websites your children want to use. There are many questionable and even dangerous sites available that are unsuitable for children. Use parental controls as necessary.
One way you’ll recognize over-use of screens is your child’s inability to manage without those minutes. If it has become the most important thing in their life, it’s time to re-evaluate your family screen-time plan.
Replace screen time with more active, in-person activities: board games, playing music or singing, cooking or gardening, week-end hikes or bike rides. Brainstorm with your kids the things they’d like to do and incorporate them into your weekly schedules.
Screens are here to stay and they offer quality educational and entertainment value, but they can’t be allowed to dominate our lives. Do an honest survey of your family’s screen time and be proactive in making a reasonable screen-time plan that fits your family’s needs.