Screens are the new babysitters of 21st Century that we do not have to hire on salary. Screens help parents keep their children busy for longer period of times. This strategy for keeping kids’ busy backfires when parents do not realize the damage screens do to their children’s brains. Research shows there is an increase in children’s ‘screen time allowance’ as the technology advances. There are more options for handheld devices making it convenient for the parents to let kids spend their leisure time on screens.
Studies have shown that screens do affect a child’s performance in school. Researchers have found that students who spent more time on screen have lack of focus and short attention spans in the classroom. Children are overstimulated because of rapid changes on the screens. They watch something for 5 minutes on the screen and then watch something else during the next five minutes. And even during those few minutes spans, the scenes changes rapidly. This shortens their attention spans thus; they are not able to focus in the classroom and suffer academically too.
There is nothing a teacher can do to help a child in school if such problem is not taken care of at home. The same kid would rather ‘perform highly’ playing video games, participate in chat groups and watching videos. Somehow there is this cultural shift going on and these kids are disconnected more than ever. This is the rise of Disconnected Generation.
In this age of technology, parents need to act smarter at this and must take actions before it turns into an epidemic. Moreover, they need to ensure that their household is screen smart and technology use is mindful and intentional.
Here are few guidelines you can follow to develop a ‘Screen Smart Household’ for your kids.
Have a Balance:
Having a balance is the key to have a screen smart household. Screen time should not be interfering with developing relationships. Spending too much time on screens can lead to screen addiction, depression and lack of connection with one’s own family members. Follow guidelines for daily screen time allowance depending on your child’s age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations for parents about maintaining daily dose of screen for children. Here is a great tool for parents to designate a screen limit for their children based on their age.
Use Screen Time as an Opportunity for Learning:
Technology is a great tool for learning if used intentionally and appropriately. Use of screens is important in today’s American classrooms as a tool for learning. In addition, children are required to use screens in order to finish their homework. Besides homework, make sure children are getting exposed to the content that they can learn something from. There are countless educational videos on YouTube and learning apps available for all kinds of devices. Screens are best if used mindfully to integrate learning in a child’s daily life.
Limit Screen Exposure:
If generations before us could live without technology, then so can we survive without it!!! Wait a Minute! I’m not asking you to boycott technology. But the mindful use is possible to reap the benefits and minimize the cons. Yes, times have changed. Parents lives are challenging, and expectations are higher than ever. I think it is totally do-able to monitor our kids with their use of screens. There needs to be a balance and screen exposure should be limited. Children should not have personal devices unless it is absolutely necessary. Delay it as much as possible. There is no need for a television in children’s room and the daily screen exposure should be limited according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines.
Block Content/ Parental Monitoring:
Always check and inspect that the content you are about to let your child watch, is age appropriate. Let them watch only those YouTube channels that you trust. There is always a possibilility for hidden inappropriate content in children’s videos. Make sure they are watching only quality content.
There are countless video games that have chat rooms. Make sure your child is not connected to a chat room. For example, a popular game called Roblox has chat rooms and recently inappropriate content has been found on this game. Chat rooms are especially dangerous because you don’t know who your child is chatting to. There are lots of software’s out there that can help parents block and monitor content on their kid’s devices.
If your child has a playdate at a friend’s house, talk to the parents of the other child. Make sure kids are being monitored at all times. Moreover, inform the host parents if you allow for your child to have a screen time in their house or not.
Be a Role Model/ Get Involved:
Children are mirrors of their parents because they reflect what they see. Sometimes parents are obsessed with telling their children about do’s and don’ts. But if parents do not lead by example, then they should forget about their child listening to them. A child always learns through parent’s modeling. Lead by example! Create a healthy relationship with technology for yourself first. Limit your own screen time and use technology mindfully. Get involved with your children and their daily life and activities. If they want to play a game, play with them. If they are interested in watching specific content, watch with them. Create a bond with your children during this time where they learn to trust you and do not be afraid to tell you if they face any problem in their tech world.
Establish House Rules for Screen Time:
Here are few rules that can help you establish a screen smart household. Take what works for you!
- No media during mealtimes: This time should rather be spent relaxing and connecting as a family.
- Screen after everything else: Allow screen times when homework gets done, meals are finished, reading is done, they have played outside.
- Let them earn their screen time: Skip screen time if the tasks in daily routine are undone. Let them earn their screen time. No exceptions!