With the introduction of home-based learning since COVID, I can’t help but worry about my children’s digital lifestyle. Whenever they are at home, I find myself checking on them constantly, wondering if they are really doing their school work or spending their time playing games. And when they’re scrolling through social media, I can’t help but wonder if they’re being influenced by what they see.
It’s no secret that digital technology has advanced so rapidly that, as a parent, it can be really challenging to keep up with our children’s online activities and their digital lifestyle.
Back in the day, we had limited options for entertainment, and we had to wait for our favourite TV shows to come on at specific times. But, in those in-between times, we would be outside, playing with friends and enjoying the simple things in life.
Nowadays, our children can choose to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, which can be a double-edged sword. While this is certainly convenient, it also means that our children are becoming more detached from the simpler things in life. It’s important for parents to recognize this and take steps to keep their children connected to the world around them.
Screen time is one way for parents to monitor and regulate how much time their children are spending on electronic devices. With some personal experience and research, I have gathered some practical tips for digital parenting that can help balance screen time while still allowing our children to enjoy the benefits of technology.
In this article, I will discuss what screen time is, how it can help parents monitor your child’s digital activities, and some relatable tips that I have personally tried and tested to help you achieve the balance you need. I also understand that safety is a top priority, so I will also discuss some essential online safety tips that parents should keep in mind when it comes to monitoring their child’s digital activities.
What is screen time?
Screen time is the amount of time spent using electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions. It’s important to keep track of our children’s screen time especially when they are young because excessive use of electronic devices can have negative effects on their health, well-being, and development.
Some examples of negative effects of excessive screen time include poor attention and focus, poor sleep, decreased physical activity and reduced social interaction.
There was a study done by the National Institutes of Health found that children who spend more than two hours a day on screen-based activities are more likely to have problems with attention, have lower test scores, and experience sleep problems.
On the other hand, we can’t say NO to screen time as it does have some benefits. For example, educational screen time or screen time that involves socializing with peers in a positive way can have benefits for children.
We need to be intentional and strategic in our approach to screen time so that we can help our children reap the benefits of technology while minimizing the potential negative effects.
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 7 tips to help you manage your child’s screen time effectively.
Set Reasonable Limits on the Amount of Screen Time Allowed
Many parents are lost at how much screen time should be given to a child. I was struggling with that too in the past. So here is a quick guide from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) providing the following recommendations for screen time limits based on age groups:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid screen time altogether except for video chatting with family and friends.
- For children between 18 and 24 months, parents may choose to introduce high-quality, educational programming with adult supervision.
- For children between 2 and 5 years of age, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming with adult supervision.
- For children ages 6 and older, parents should place consistent limits on the amount of time spent using media and ensure that it doesn’t interfere with sleep, physical activity, or other healthy behaviours.
Do remember that this is only a guideline, as parents, we should also take into account our child’s individual needs, interests, and developmental stage when setting screen time limits.
Use Parental Controls to Block Inappropriate Content & Monitor Internet Usage
There are several parental control tools and software out there that allow parents to monitor and restrict their children’s access to certain online content and activities.
Let me share some examples of parental controls that can be used to block inappropriate content and monitor internet usage:
- Content filters: Many internet service providers and mobile carriers offer content filters that can be turned on to block access to inappropriate content such as pornography or violent websites. An example is the mspy.net
- Web browsers with parental controls: Some web browsers, such as Google Chrome, have built-in parental controls that allow parents to set up profiles for their children and restrict access to certain websites.
- Parental control software: There are many software programs available that allow parents to monitor and control their children’s internet usage. These programs can be used to block specific websites, set time limits for internet use, and even monitor social media activity. An example is the Family Link from Google.
- Mobile device parental controls: Most mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, have parental control settings that can be used to restrict access to certain apps, websites, and content
Bear in mind that even if you have set parental controls everywhere to manage your child’s internet usage, they are not 100% foolproof.
Children may still find ways to access inappropriate content or engage in risky online behaviour, so it’s important for us to have open and honest conversations with our children about internet safety and set clear rules and boundaries for internet use.
Encourage Physical Activities & Hobbies Outside of the Screen
Whenever I can, I will always get my children to be on the move—not travelling but moving their little hands and body. I love nature, hence I am always on the lookout for fun activities with my children to explore different parks and beaches or outdoor events to take part in.
If you have a super tight schedule, then work on a time that you and your children can do it together and make it a routine.
Try to make it fun so that everyone will look forward to it rather than having to drag each other to work on an activity. This can help them develop a positive attitude towards these activities and encourage them to continue participating in them.
Establish Quality Family Time and Connect More with Your Kids
This is one of the important factors that I always focus on because when we connect more with our children, they feel a sense of belonging and togetherness in the family. With that feeling, our children will have a stronger sense of security and stability which will lead to increased confidence, self-esteem, and resilience in the face of adversity.
Here are some tips on how to connect more with your kids and create meaningful family time:
- Set aside time for the family: every evening, we make sure everyone is at home having dinner together and every weekend mornings will be our family breakfast day
- Involve our children in the decision-making: I always involve my children in the planning and decision-making process such as which rice cooker or printer should I get, what to cook for dinner. This will make them feel included and valued in the family.
- Take an interest in your child’s hobbies: Most children at a certain age will start to have a hobby. Show an interest in what they love and encourage them to pursue it so that they feel supported and it can strengthen your relationship with your child.
Socializing in children is essential because it helps them develop important social and emotional skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Indirectly, it can also help reduce screen time.
I love arranging playdates for my children when they were young and enjoy watching them play with their little friends.
Even when I am out meeting my friends, I will bring them along so that they can meet my friends too and encourage them to spend time with not only their little friends but also adult friends.
Research has shown that children who socialize regularly have better mental health outcomes, including lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Set screen-free zones
I know sometimes it’s just so hard to head out for some adventures. So, if you are stuck at home with your children, set up screen-free zones to help your child develop healthy screen time habits.
For example, you might designate the bedroom or a cosy corner of the house as a screen-free zone to help your child get better sleep or rest.
I used to have a playroom for my children to play in and there won’t be any devices in the room even if I am to enter the room I will have to leave my phone out of the room as well.
Discuss the Dangers of Social Media & Cyberbullying
This is one of the most important tips when it comes to screen time. We have to admit that social media and online activities have become an integral part of not only adults’ lives but children’s lives too.
However, children are not able to tell what is dangerous and what is safe to consume on the internet. As parents, we play a crucial role in guiding our children to navigate the online world safely. One way to do this is by having open and honest discussions with our children about the potential dangers of social media and cyberbullying.
I do not tell my children directly what they can or cannot watch without giving any reasons because I do not want them to find it fearful to discuss with me what they do online.
How I do it is by approaching this conversation with empathy and understanding, acknowledging that social media can be a significant source of social connection for them.
I always check in on them by asking them about their experiences on social media and whether they have seen or experienced any negative behaviour, such as cyberbullying or harassment.
With open conversation, it is way much easier to educate my children on how to stay safe online by setting privacy settings, avoiding sharing personal information, and being cautious when interacting with strangers online.
I always remind them to speak up if they see any concerning behaviour online and to seek help from a trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
With proper guidance and support, I can help them navigate the online world safely and develop responsible online behaviour. Ultimately, this can help them build healthy and positive relationships both online and offline.
I hope with these 7 tips, you can help your child develop healthy screen time habits that will serve them well throughout their lives. Remember, managing your child’s screen time isn’t about restricting their access to technology, but rather about helping them develop the skills they need to use technology in a healthy and productive way.
Monitoring your child’s screen time can help ensure that they are using electronic devices in a healthy and balanced way. By setting limits on screen time and encouraging other activities, we can help our children develop good habits and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As parents, we need to support each other on this journey of digital parenting, so let’s learn and grow together!