There has been a lot of discussion about the diet and exercise habits of American kids. Most families are now seriously looking at how much ‘screen-time’ their children are getting on a daily basis.
Remember that screen time is more than just television time; computer use can spiral out of control as well. Often parents are lulled into believing that letting their children use a computer has great educational value, this can be true HOWEVER you need to know exactly WHAT your child is doing on that computer! When they are using the internet, make sure you are regularly checking what sites they are on. Put restrictions on your computer if needed.
During the summer holidays, television and computer entertainment can be a great way to give kids ‘down-time’. It’s often easier for you, they’re quiet and entertained and you’re able to get chores done. Use these tips to help limit the amount of time your family spends in front of a screen:
- Set a time limit for each child in your family. Try using a simple chart to track screen time. Each day give each child their allocation of screen time. With preschoolers you may wish to draw (or print off and cut out) a TV program icon e.g. Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer.
- Limit your own screen time. Set a good example. Try recording your own favorite shows to watch after your kids go to bed and try to avoid spending extended periods of time on the internet.
- Try to preview program and movies your child is going to watch, it is important for you to know exactly what they are watching. Decide whether it’s appropriate. Always check out computer games and web sites before letting your child use them.
- If you have older children in the house, make sure they know the rules. Talk about what program and games their younger siblings are allowed to watch or play with. Sometimes preschoolers can sneak into an older siblings room and become involved with inappropriate activities/discussions.
- Control the number of screens you have in the house. The fewer screens – the easier it is to monitor.
- Turn the TV off at mealtimes – studies have shown that children eat more when they watch and eat at the same time. Use mealtimes to connect as a family.
Hey, even Bill Gates sets screen time limits for his three children!! Bill and his wife Melinda have limited their 7 year old and 10 year old children to a total of 45 minutes a day of total screen time and an hour a day on the weekends. This is in addition to what their oldest child needs to do on the computer for their school work.
So, have a family meeting and discuss WHY you are setting screen limits. As a family decide what is fair and make a list of all the other activities they can do once they have used up their precious screen time!
What are your tips for monitoring and or reducing screen time in your home? Would love your comments!