The Nerd Side Of Life

Setting Screen Time Limits for Children

Whether your home is filled with all sorts of high-tech and voice-activated gizmos and gadgets, or its “only” electronics are smartphones, iPads, and gaming systems, it’s necessary for the overall well-being of your children and the strength of your family unit, that you set — and steadfastly adhere to — screen time limits.

Before you have a discussion with your children about their screen time limits, however, keep in mind that screen time refers to the time you will allow them to be:

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  • on a smartphone playing a game or texting their friends
  • on a gaming system
  • watching their favorite movie (again)
  • channel surfing for the latest episode of a cartoon or reality show

All of these secondary, passive activities entail screen time. What’s more, all of these “activities” can be accessed by your kids while there:

  • lounging on the couch
  • riding with you in the family vehicle
  • walking beside you at the grocery store

Screen time is not just the time your kids spend having their heads down feverishly texting abbreviated words or staring up at the big screen TV anxiously trying to get their character through the next level of a battle. Besides, setting screen time limits is not just for the little kids in your family – it applies to your teens, and — if they’re still residing under your roof and you’re paying for their cellphone use – it applies to the young adults in your family as well. So, with all of these factors in mind, here are some tried-and-true suggestions for setting screen time limits:

No Screen Time At The Dinner Table.

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When your family is gathered together around the dinner table, absolutely no devices should be permitted within reach. Sharing dinner is the one time your family has the opportunity to engage in discussions to find out how everyone’s day went and plans for the upcoming weekend. By setting the precedence in your home that it’s neither appropriate nor polite to be looking down at a phone while “breaking bread” with a loved one, you can rest assured that when your kids start dating or going out to dinner with friends, they will display good manners and a great upbringing. If your family can’t gather around the table every night due to schedules, practices, and work, the screen time rule should still apply for whenever they are eating – whether alone or at the kitchen counter with a sibling. Eating while checking out social media platforms is not mindful eating. This bad habit can easily lead to overeating – which can quickly lead to physical and emotional issues later in your child’s life. Just like texting and driving will never mix – the same holds for eating and texting.

No Screen Time While Out With The Family.

Whether you’re enjoying the day at the mall with your child, hiking through the parks, at the local community festival, or your son’s football game or daughter’s dance recital, screen time should not be allowed. While in many circumstances in life “showing up” (getting up and getting out) is half the battle, it ultimately doesn’t matter if the person physically showing up is lost in his/her world by being distracted by an electronic device. If you’re heading out for a family outing – the kids should leave their cellphones and deVICES at home. Let them enjoy the ride – the journey to your day’s destination. Help them notice what roads you are taking to get to where you are going, talk to them about ANYTHING. Embrace and cherish these fleeting moments you have with your children riding along with you in your vehicle – don’t throw the opportunities away by allowing your kids to shut out the real world with earbuds.

No Screen Time At Bedtime.

Kids aren’t just naturally exhausted and cranky in the morning because they got a great night’s sleep and had a delicious healthy breakfast of fruits and oatmeal. Screen time while in bed or throughout the night depletes their energy and throws off their system. All electronic devices – including TVs – should be shut off (or removed) from your child’s bedroom at night – all year long (not just during the school week). If your child has enough energy and attention span to stay up and surf the internet or facetime with a friend, he or she has enough energy to read (and hold) an actual book!

So, what time is left for screen time? Give your kids a certain amount of allotted time throughout the day to be looking at a screen – perhaps two hours or, at most – three hours. You’ll have to be diligent and committed – as well as a lead-by-example, but setting early limits and proper example will make life much easier when you’re dealing with teens and cellphones later on!

Cover photo: ISTOCKPHOTO

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