How Much Is Too Much Screen Time?
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How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
Today, I will give you my guidelines for technology use that every parent can use this summer as a basis for boundaries for their child’s screen time. And stick around to the end because today I am giving you 3 Rules Every Parent Needs and Suggested Time Allowances For Kids Depending On Their Age. Let’s get started!
With summer here and school out, many families rely on electronics to keep kids busy and out of trouble. Unfortunately, many parents also have kids begging for more time on their iPad, Xbox, or TV. But how much is too much screen time?
Unfortunately, many of the guidelines available that constitute healthy and unhealthy device use are conflicting. However, one thing that remains consistent amongst many experts is that parents need to evaluate and consider their child’s maturity level and responsibility with electronic use. For example, while some kids can handle the social responsibilities of social media at age 13, other children are not until later in their teen years.
First of all, if you plan to let your child be on electronics without standing over their shoulder, then you need to be willing to dedicate time to monitor what your child is doing online. Next, talk to your kids about safe behaviors online and gaming. Finally, you will need to help your child navigate through cyberbullies/cyber-predators. I suggest purchasing a monitoring app for their devices that blocks/monitors/limits the content that children see. Teaching the social responsibilities of the online world is really important. Many parents think that kids inherently know tech because they can navigate technology with a second nature that many parents don’t possess; however, these skill sets don’t cross over into social responsibilities. Therefore, it is not appropriate to hand children devices and expect them to know how to navigate a digital world.
Let’s start with some general guidelines that parents need around electronics, no matter what age your child might be.
- Electronics Should Not Be Used In The Bedroom. All computers, iPads, or phones should be used in the common areas of the house. Have your child charge their devices at night in a common area as well. Light from devices makes it harder to fall asleep. Also, most inappropriate behaviors with electronics happen when kids are hiding in their room with their electronics.
- Mealtimes should be device-free. Eating meals with your child, even if it is not in a structured mealtime setting, is an excellent opportunity for you and your child to talk. Electronics at the table block conversation. Even if you or your child doesn’t have anything to say, parents need to give their children the opportunity to start a conversation. This is taken away if there is a screen around.
- Screen breaks should happen every hour. Breaks don’t need to be long, but your child should put down the electronic every hour and do something else for 5-15 minutes or more. You will need to encourage and guide your child to do this. They will not take a break on their own, but teaching your child to stop and take breaks in the middle of a project is an important skill to learn and serve them as adults. Encourage your child to go to the bathroom, grab a snack, take a short walk, or do a few jumping jacks.
Now let’s get to my recommendations for screen time use. Here at The Impactful Parent, we focus on the school-aged child, so that is where I will begin.
- Children ages 5-8 years old should aim for 2 or fewer hours of electronics per day. In addition, children should have access to only high-quality educational content, no search engine browser, no social media, and parents should prioritize active play/movement.
- Children ages 9-11 will likely start to bug you about more and more electronic use. My goal is to keep my children at 2 or fewer hours of screen time per day, but honestly, this time varies in my household depending on the day. This is the age range where I implement rules that require the child to do physical and mental exercises before engaging in electronics. For example, my own children have to complete an hour of reading before engaging in Minecraft. Prioritize physical activity, hobbies, homework, and chores to be completed before the child is allowed to play on their electronic devices. No social media access and only a phone without internet are appropriate for this age group. I highly suggest the Gabb Wireless phone. This phone looks like a smartphone and has many features like a smartphone (so kids love it), but does not have access to the internet, social media, or any search engine. This means that you don’t even need monitoring or blocking software app to feel good about your child having a phone. To find out more about the Gabb Wireless phone, go to https://gabbwireless.com/?promo=IMPACTFULPARENT30
- Children ages 12-14 should only be using electronics after their chores, homework, and other responsibilities are completed. 3 hours per day is the most I recommend your child be on their devices, and of course, less is much better! Most kids will start bugging parents for a smartphone by this age (if they haven’t already). I still suggest purchasing a Gabb Wireless phone as their first phone experience. These phones have a GPS tracking feature on them so parents can keep track of where their children are located. It still allows their child to look cool with the imitation smartphone’s sleek design. Once your child has proven to be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of a Gabb Wireless phone, parents can consider upgrading their child to a smartphone. The most important thing to consider when you are thinking of purchasing a smartphone for your child is, Do they have the maturity to handle the large responsibility it will take to navigate google and social media appropriately? Is your child responsible enough not to drop or lose such an expensive tool? Is your child trustworthy enough to complete responsibilities like homework and chores before smartphone use? And are you, as a parent, ready to monitor your child’s social media accounts and have conversations about online predators, cyberbullying, and other mature topics? Plus, once you give your child access to a smartphone, they are very likely to guard that privilege like a starving animal holding a meal. If you ever have to take the phone away, you must be prepared to pry the phone out of the hands of a wild beast and the death grip of a silverback gorilla. So I guess what I am trying to say here is, don’t just go out and buy your child a smartphone. Consider a safer option like the Gabb Wireless phone and make sure that YOU and your child are prepared for the great responsibility that will come with purchasing a small computer (a phone) for your child’s pocket.
- Children older than 15 might be ready for a smartphone if you deem them responsible enough. Still prioritize physical activities, homework, and chores to come first. Still, try and limit screen time to 3 hours or less. Still be prepared for serious talks about social media use, predators, and safe internet behaviors. I am a big fan of monitoring and blocking apps that help keep your child from inappropriate online content. Many of these apps also limit internet use. At this age, it is also important to have rules around phone use and to drive. It is not until your child is a senior in high school that I consider taking off parental controls and monitoring. Why? Because some families with more responsible kids may want to consider giving their child this freedom while the child is still in their home. This gives the child an opportunity to have “adult-like” responsibilities while still having the support of their parents nearby. Having said this, I wouldn’t recommend taking off parental controls before your child is a senior in high school and even if they are a senior, consider they still may not be ready. This is a judgment call that only a parent can make. I find that sometimes the sweet spot for trying no parental controls can be March of your child’s senior year or even the summer before college.
Keep in mind, it is much easier to withhold responsibility than it is to take it away. Electronic use is about the child’s readiness and the parent’s readiness to monitor their child’s devices and has those difficult conversations.
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