Imagine giving your children the gifts of more creative play, more physical activity, connection with others, and the opportunity to learn from experiences besides the media. Here are five tips to moderate your family's screen time that will help provide the sense of structure, consistency, and support that is so necessary for their healthy development:
1) Kids learn from watching parents: Model the behavior you want to see.
2) Clarify what “screen time” means in your house: Does it include time in front of TV, computers, video games, and/or tablets? Does it include all time spent in front of any screen, or just screen time after homework is complete?
3) Decide on a schedule for screen time during the week and on the weekends: "Device-free" meals are one great place to start. Some parents limit screen time on school days to 30 minutes, but will allow 2 hours on the weekends. Other families have a "phone curfew," and collect cell phones before bed to encourage a good night's sleep. You have to decide what you are comfortable with and make sure everyone in your family is clear about what the plan means for them.
4) Pay-to-play options: Some families tie different activities to screen time such as homework, chores, reading, practicing instruments, physical activity, etc. For example: Children have to complete all their daily chores, or all their homework, before engaging in leisurely screen time.
5) Safety: You will want to talk to kids about the risks of using technology such as experiencing violent or inappropriate content, cyber bullying, and internet addiction. Make sure they know what to do if they feel threatened in any way. There are parental control apps that limit internet access, but keeping the lines of communication open with your children is the best way to keep them safe.