Screen Time: How Much is too Much?
Does your little one cry when you take away the iPad? Is there always a constant battle over the time on gadgets? Are your children demanding their very own phones at an early age?
Parenting has never been easy and to top it all, we are now faced with the issues of grappling with technology as well. In a day and age where it is almost impossible to even imagine a world without our smartphones and technological gadgets, it is now becoming increasingly difficult for parents to limit screen time for their children.
So how much time is too much when it comes to screen time? Are we losing our children to the internet and fancy gizmos? If we have ever asked ourselves these questions and have wondered how to draw a balance between real time and screen time, then as parents, we have understood that while technology can help us in so many ways, it is also responsible for a disconnect between family members.
Gone are the days when a simple walk to the park or a drive to the nearest grocery story would give our children a lot of joy. Nowadays, children turn to their devices like there is nothing else to do or mindlessly switch to gadgets at the drop of a hat. So why do we need to limit screen time amongst our children? A lot of research has been done on the harmful effects of excessive screen time. Linked to an impaired cognitive function, sleep disorders and a very short attention span, increased levels of screen time is known to damage the development of the brain.
Screen management is now, therefore, the talk of the hour and a lot of parents are now putting down rules and guidelines for themselves and their families when it comes to it. We have put together some broad guidelines for you to follow:
- Be a role model: It is all good to tell your children to put down their gadgets but how easy is it for you, to also put down your phone or resist the urge of looking at an email. Let’s get this straight. For us to set screen time rules inside the house, we need to practice the same. Be a role model to our children. Our children are always observing and learning from us and so the next time when we pick up that phone to look at a message or answer work calls while at the dinner table, remember that we are setting an example for our children.
- Family Meals Together: Meals in front of a TV is something that we are parents encourage all the time. Yes, its definitely easier isn’t it? However, eating a meal together with the family gives children a sense of routine and provides them with some dedicated family time which they know they will have to invest in. Meal times with the family can be a good time to share all that has happened throughout the day and also a great way to put away those technological gadgets. A ‘no phone<’ time, dinners or breakfast over the weekend that is eaten together, not only fosters happy and healthy children but also encourages family togetherness.
- Introduction of a Family Media Time: Every house must have its own media plan. Carefully discussed and designed with the whole family, this plan must chalk out everything when it comes to the use of media. This would include the concept of tech free zones in the house, where technology or the use of it will be completely banned. It can also include the amount of screen time on a daily basis and also on weekends. The dining room or bedroom for example, can come under the tech free zones in a house.
- Chalk in family time together: At the end of a tiring week, the best way to unwind and bond with our little ones at the same time, is to spend some quality time with them. And what better way to do it, than to schedule some family time with them every weekend. It would be a good idea to also introduce the concept of family ‘Game nights’ back into the picture. A great way to have some fun together as a family and to ease a bit of the daily stress, a board game with your child can make a huge difference. At the end of the day, whether it’s a walk together or a cook out session or something as simple as doing chores together, we will never regret investing in our relationship with them.
- Don’t be afraid to say no: Crucial when it comes to setting down guidelines, we as parents, must never be afraid to set limits. Look at it from a long term perspective and ignore the angry looks that are passed in your direction!
At the end of the day, remember, each family is different and the rules set in each house are also not the same as another. As long as the family is united in the desire to spend time together and bond with each other on a regular basis, it is fine. It is all about finding the right balance between screen time and family time and sticking to that balance wherever it is possible.
However, in the process, don’t forget to laugh, smile and have loads of fun!