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Helping Parents Navigate the World of Screens



Today's kids live in a world of screens.  The average teen spends 8.5 hours on screens each day.  Kids (ages 8 to 12) spend 5.5 hours a day with screens. 


These time estimates are only for social media, gaming, and texting.

 

56% of teens associate the absence of their cellphone with at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious. 


75% of parents say they are concerned about their teen spending too much time in front of screens, and 57% report setting screen time restrictions for their teen in one way or another.


Here are a few issues that are connected with too much screen time:


  • Sleep problems: Too much screen time can interfere with children’s sleep patterns, making it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

  • Mental health issues: Excessive screen time has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues in children. This may be because children who spend more time on screens may have less time for other activities that promote mental health, such as exercise, socializing, and sleep.

  • Social development: Children who spend excessive amounts of time on screens may have difficulty developing social skills, such as communication, empathy, and self-regulation. This is because screens can be a solitary activity, limiting opportunities for face-to-face interaction with others.

  • Obesity and poor physical health: Children who spend more time on screens are at an increased risk of obesity, as well as other physical health problems such as poor posture, eye strain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

So how can you help parents navigate this with their children?


Practice what you preach.


Truth be told, most parents are addicted to their smart phone as well.  Often you will see parents distracted by their smart phone instead of focusing on their children. Parents must set the example when it comes to screen time


Help kids deal with their time away from their screens.


Kids will often say they are bored if you cut down on their screen time. But be okay with that. They need time to be "bored."  This helps them tap into their creativity and takes them out of their comfort zone  You can also help kids think of ways to spend their time "away" from their phone.


Open and honest conversation.


Start by having an open and honest conversation with your child about the importance of managing screen time. Discuss the potential risks associated with excessive use, such as sleep deprivation, sedentary behavior, and the impact on mental health. 


Work together to set the limits.


Involve your children in the process.  Ask for their input. When you ask kids to take a part in creating the plan, they are less likely to resist it.

 

Decide where screens are off limits.


Perhaps there are no screens allowed in the car?  No screens in church?  No screens in restaurants? No screens at agreed places where the phone will be turned off. 


Get a limiting tool.

  

There are apps that can set screen limits on your child's usage. These can be very helpful. This takes the focus away from you being a "mean, controlling parent" to a system that is helping your child grow in this area.

  

Encourage them to get involved in outdoor activities.


Encourage outdoor play and physical activities to balance screen time. 


Plan family outings or activities that don’t involve screens. 


Monitor and track children's onscreen time and activities.


It is important to monitor your child's online activity and the content they are exposed to. There are lots of great tools for this including parental controls, safe search filters and the ability to monitor where kids go to engage in social media and general surfing.


Navigating screen time for kids can be a challenge, but by following these tips, you can help children develop a healthy relationship with technology.

Remember to set clear boundaries, encourage other activities, monitor content and online activity, and lead by example. By doing so, you can help your child reap the benefits of technology while avoiding the potential negative effects.

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