Managing Screen Time

Parents are charged with managing screen time and electronics use at a level that sometimes feels like it is a losing battle. On the one hand, electronics captivate our children; kids have fun and we have a little time to finish necessary tasks at home and take some time to breathe. Kids generally enjoy a variety of electronic options—and there’s a lot from which to choose.

On the other hand, kids are often required to spend more time engaged with electronic devices. They may be required to use a computer and access the Internet to complete school projects. As kids get older, we rely on them to have access to their cell phone so we can coordinate the day’s complicated schedule. Teens often must navigate complex school portals to access assignments and grades and missing a text can feel catastrophic.

Setting a balance between electronics use for enjoyment and necessity is a constant challenge. It’s especially difficult when children observe that not every family has the same rules. When your child comes home and says “everyone” has unlimited access to the TV, phone, and computer and persistently lobbies for the same standard, you may wonder whether this is actually true and worry that your child might slide into a screen addiction. If you set limits, the conversation can swiftly turn into, “that’s not fair” and you are left frustrated and confused about what to do.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only 1-2 hours of “entertainment media” use for children and teens and avoiding screen use for children under the age of 2 years. (Follow this link for more information: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx). In 2015, the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center published Outsmarting the Smart Screens: A Parent’s Guide to the Tools that are Here to Help (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/prc/2015/01/07/outsmarting-the-smart-screens/), a guide that gives parents ideas for limiting electronics. Parental controls are outlined for TVs, phones, computers, videogames, and tablets.

The guide also notes that resistance to these limits is to be expected. Whenever we make changes that cramp our style, things may feel worse before they get better. If this happens, remember why you are limiting electronics’ use—your child’s and family’s health, relationships, and overall productivity and well-being depend on it!

The guide also notes that resistance to these limits is to be expected. Whenever we make changes that cramp our style, things may feel worse before they get better. If this happens, remember why you are limiting electronics’ use—your child’s and family’s health, relationships, and overall productivity and well-being depend on it!

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