The 8 Screen-Time Tips Both You and Your Kids Will Appreciate
With technology as a driving force in today's world, it's no surprise that young children are some of the most proficient users of all things screen related. With screen time increasing and time outside or spent as a family seemingly decreasing, some parents may be wondering, "How much is too much?" Ingrid Simone, executive editor of Toca magazine, shared eight tips and insights with POPSUGAR Moms about screen time, the type of content children should be engaged in while using screens, and how she handles her daughter's obsession with YouTube videos.
Note the differences between good and bad screen time.
Some parents may decide that good screen time is time spent on an educational app, or that bad screen time could be something like watching a cartoon. Ingrid told POPSUGAR Moms that for her, bad screen time is content that isn't age-appropriate or doesn't serve a purpose (for example, a "first-person shooter game"). Interactive games, shows, and apps that involve active play, are age-appropriate, and serve a social or emotional purpose — "high-quality content" — constitute good screen time.
Set parental controls and be actively involved.
With screens dominating both ours and our kids' lives, Ingrid feels that it's important to stay active in your child's screen time. Parental controls are an important tool that can be used to give kids access to age-appropriate content. She said, "Even if you're not going to be sitting down with your child playing with them — because maybe they don't want you to for whatever reason — it's still important for parents to be involved and know what's on a child's screen." Making smart decisions before your child has their hands on a device is important and can assure you that their time spent with a screen is in some way beneficial.
Don't set rigid time limits.
If a child is engaged in high-quality content that is helping him to use his imagination or learn a new skill, having a set amount of time with a screen, in Ingrid's opinion, can actually be detrimental. "Time limits will vary depending on your situation," she said. "You could put a hard and fast time limit on things, but there are some interactive activities that kids will do that take time. They might be right on the edge of their next big thing, and to have a hard cutoff at 30 minutes, I think that they can lose a lot of creative opportunity in those cases."
Give your kids some freedom when it's their time.
For school-aged children, Ingrid believes that schoolwork should be finished (whether it's done on a screen or off is irrelevant) before participating in leisure screen time, though every family is different. Allow your children to choose how to spend their time with screens after homework, chores, lessons, or any other obligatory activities are finished — as long as the activities follow your guidelines — so they feel they have some freedom.
Even "frivolous" screen time is OK.
"There are fun things that might not be designed for learning that may seem frivolous, but I don't necessarily consider [these activities] a bad thing," Ingrid said. "I think entertainment is good." She used her daughter watching YouTube videos as a way to find DIY projects as an example — if the activity is something that is fun and both shapes and inspires your child's interests and creativity, there shouldn't be a hard limit put on using a screen to engage in it. Children can learn valuable skills through activities that are not necessarily educational in the same way that adults do.
There isn't one certain age your child can start using screens.
From a young age, children begin to absorb material from screens. For an infant or toddler, the "right" content might be a Skype call with a family member who lives far away, or engaging in a high-quality app to learn an age-appropriate skill. It is important to make sure that screen time is spent on an activity that suits their age. With that said, Ingrid feels that there is no "set age" where screen time becomes truly applicable or appropriate.
Just because a screen is used for schoolwork, doesn't mean other types of screen time should be taken away.
Schools use a lot of technology now, which also includes giving assignments that involve technology outside the classroom. Ingrid mentioned that her son uses the computer to do many of his school assignments and added, "I don't say, 'You've been on the computer doing your homework for an hour, therefore you're going to have less time to do what you want to do.' I think screen-based platforms are really great, so I wouldn't limit it when it's used as a tool." There's no need to "even things out" by taking away leisure screen time simply because your child was using a screen for homework.
Do what's right for your family.
At the end of the day, each family is going to have different opinions and rules about screens and how they should be used. Do what you feel is right for your children and find your own ways of encouraging learning, imagination, and creativity. Should you choose to have screens present and accessible to your children, monitoring and considering the time spent on high-quality, age-appropriate content is key. In Ingrid's opinion, there is enough high-quality content out there for most parents to feel comfortable with screens playing a role in their child's life.