Screen time is a hot topic for parents and researchers alike. While digital devices are the norm, and children can certainly use them to their benefit, parents can also help children learn healthy digital habits.
Research is working out the long-term impact of devices on children.
Here’s what’s known so far, and what you as a parent can do about it:
Devices before bed equals no sleep: It’s undisputed. When it comes to bedtime, devices are a big no-no. According to the Hoag Medical Group, devices are known to emit a specific light wavelength that messes with sleep patterns. Doctors recommend that children don’t use devices for at least one hour before bed.
The fix: At night, stick to the basics. Read to your children or tell them a bedtime story. When they’re old enough to read to themselves, encourage them to stick with the habit of curling up with a good book before light’s out.
Screen time linked to depression and anxiety: According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, children who spend a lot of time in front of screens are at a greater risk for emotional issues and low self-esteem. This is in part because the more time children are spending in front of screens, the less time they’re spending doing healthy activities such as socializing or being active. Additionally, certain content can increase anxiety, particularly social media.
The fix: Distract children with fun, thought-provoking alternatives. Whether it’s a trip to the playground, board games or fort-building, putting screens away gives children’s imaginations time to flourish.
Verbal warnings do more harm than good: Every parent knows the struggle of limiting device use. Handing a tablet over is easy enough, but getting it back? That’s when the struggle begins.
According to research, giving children a warning that screen time is coming to an end increases the chances that children will fight back and defy their limitation.
The fix: Setting clear limits on tech use is not just important, it’s essential. New technology can help you do so much more seamlessly than an idle warning. Think apps that don’t lead children into the next level of a game or give parents control over children’ devices remotely.
One such tool is a parental control app called OurPact. To start, parents sign up for a free account. After pairing their child’s devices, they’re able to manage them remotely through at-a-touch blocking or automated schedules. It’s great for setting bedtime schedules, ensuring devices don’t cause homework distractions and for enjoying ping-free family dinners. It works on Wi-Fi and all cellular connections, meaning you can manage access whether you’re at the grocery store or at home. To learn more or download, visit OurPact.com.
And of course, open the lines of communication about device use with your children early on, and keep the dialogue going. Explain why screen time rules are important and set a good example. If you don’t want your kid to look at their device in the middle of a conversation, hold yourself to the same rule.