Helpful Rules to Manage Your Child’s Screen Time

Helpful Rules to Manage Your Child’s Screen Time

So, you’re thinking about how to manage your child’s screen time. Ironically, you might have once said things along the lines of, “When I have a child, I won’t let them have a tablet”.

It’s understandable that you may be hesitant about letting your child use electronic devices like iPad’s. Many parents worry about their child becoming so absorbed by an electronic device that they might miss out on playing outdoors, building dens, or other types of imaginary play.

It may well be inevitable that children will one day start using tablets and enjoy doing so. With that in mind, you might consider establishing rules to avoid your child only ever wanting to use a tablet and miss out on other adventures. Balance is key.

“At what age can I let my child use a tablet?”

Most of the guidance you might read about this suggests that children younger than 18 months should not use tablets. For children aged 2-5 years, it is recommended that they spend no more than 1 hour per day of screen time.

There are good reasons to limit your child’s screen time. Children who spend too much time in front of a screen miss out on critical development, particularly social skills. They tend to spend less time outdoors and miss out on physical activities and interactions with others, which can negatively impact early language development.

When to Avoid Giving Your Child Screen Time

It’s now very common to see children using their parents’ smartphones or iPad at the dinner table or in restaurants.

There are moments of being a parent when it can be easier to let your child have a tablet or iPad so that you can concentrate on something else you need to do. Giving in and letting your child have a tablet in these moments does offer short-term relief. We understand that.

However, as parents, we do need to be careful not to confuse the boundaries around electronic devices. If you allow your child to use a tablet at the dinner table (at home) but not at a restaurant, that sends n unclear message. Your child won’t see the difference between the two and will likely become upset by this.

The Benefits of Allowing Some Screen Time

Outright banning electronic devices often won’t be the best route forward. Allowing for some managed screen time can have some benefits.

There is now a wide array of educational apps available on tablets. Matching games, number games, colour games and early word games are easy to find, and many are free to download. Short and occasional use of these apps can support children’s ongoing understanding and development in these areas.

Screen time can also be a good way of allowing children to take some time away from their usual activities and refuel. A calming option instead of frequent, fast-paced activities can sometimes be what children need.

Rules You Can Set to Manage Children’s Screen Time

You might find these rules helpful in limiting your child’s screen time:

  • Make it a Special Treat: Making screen time a special treat sends a clear message that using electronic devices is occasional and not something we should be doing all of the time. Fifteen minutes or so should be enough time as a treat.
  • Use Educational Apps: Ensure that, where possible, educational apps are only being used which offer children the opportunity to think and learn.
  • Don’t Allow Free Access: Put electronic devices away and don’t leave them out to be always accessible. If children have free access, they are more than likely to become distracted from the activity they may have been doing to use the electronic device instead.
  • Take Part in Screen Time: Sitting with your child to engage in something on an electronic device can be a great way of enhancing the experience. It also makes the activity more interactive because you can discuss what you can see or hear.
  • Be A Good Role Model: We’re all guilty of being on our own devices too much. When we use our phones at the dinner table or when we are meant to be enjoying a group activity, this does not set a good example for our young children. Making a conscious effort to break the habit of endless scrolling can help support children’s understanding of how and when devices should be used.

Remember, if you establish these sorts of rules, you must try to stick to them. Don’t confuse the message by letting things slip!

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