How do these recommendations compare with the amount of daily screen time your children typically have? Most parents will find that their children are far above the recommendations. Being aware of the problem is the first step in making some improvements.
What are signs that digital usage is becoming a problem?
If your children are exhibiting these types of behaviors, it's time to think about reducing the time they spend on media:
- Spending less and less time with family and friends
- Difficulty focusing on the present moment due to craving video game or cellphone
- Developing health issues such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, eye strain, weight gain, backaches
- Withdrawing from sports, hobbies and social interactions
- Losing sleep due to gaming, texting
- Acting irritable or discontent when not using digital items
- Declining grades in school, missing school
- Talking and thinking obsessively about the digital activity
- Denying or minimizing any negative consequences
When you realize your children's media usage is having a negative impact on them, you need to set some limits despite their protesting. If you feel your child is addicted to video games and will react extremely to having limits set, it is wise to seek help from a professional counselor or psychologist.
It is also wise to keep TV, internet and other digital media out of your children's rooms. When these devices are in your children's bedrooms, it’s much more difficult to monitor what's going on.
What are ways to limit media usage?
If your children are old enough to discuss the issue, sit down as a family to talk about it. State your concerns and brainstorm ideas on how your family could limit media usage.
These are some ideas other families have used:
- Declare a "screen free day" once a week where nobody watches TV, uses the computer or plays video games.
- Install monitoring software on digital devices that allow you to set limits.
- Track daily media usage and stop using media after the allotted time is up.
- Set timers to go off after a media time limit has been reached.
- Turn off digital devices during meals.
- Move TVs and computers out of bedrooms and into common areas.
- Plan more activities to do together like bike rides and hikes.
Researchers have found that children whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time with media than their peers.
Healthy Children offers a free tool for creating your own Family Media Plan
Although your children may resist your efforts to reduce their screen time, the long term benefits are worth it!
For additional information, visit the Resources for Parenting Digital Kids