Read on for the things to think about when debating with your spouse about the right amount of screen time for your children.
How to compromise about technology
So you and your spouse can't decide on how much exposure (if any!) your child should have to technology. One parent is saying television, computers and smart phones are OK and the other wonders what happened to books and playing outside? When coming to a compromise with your spouse, consider the pros and cons of screen time for your child.
Technology has its good sides
Marion Marritt, internet safety advocate says parents should consider the upsides:
- Electronic and internet-connected devices can be a powerful tool for learning and growing and will undoubtedly be a skill needed throughout their lives.
- They can be a place where kids can gain independence, explore, and discover new interests.
- Learning how to effectively manage communication with cell phones, emails, and social networking is a great skill to cultivate at a young age.
Marritt says parents should also consider technology's downsides:
- Gadgets can be a distraction, may be hard to ignore during school hours, and could be used inappropriately.
- Kids have a hard time understanding the permanence of things they post on the internet, including mean things said about others and details shared about their own lives.
- Simple wrong clicks on “unknown” bad links can lead to malware and viruses installed on your computer.
Is your child even ready?
When debating with your spouse about how much screen time your child should have, Tim Woda, a digital safety advocate and co-founder of uKnow.com (a provider of parental intelligence systems), says you should first decide if your child is even ready for a cell phone, computer or tablet. He suggests considering these factors:
- Has he shown responsibility with other big-ticket personal items? (Anything from a retainer to a Nintendo DS).
- You've discussed issues like cyber bullying.
- He knows what to do if he's sent or encounters inappropriate material.
- He can provide a well-thought out reason for needing one. (Not, "But mom, all my friends have one.")
- He agrees to abide by family rules and limits on how or when he can use it.
- He understands the method you'll be using to monitor his usage.
So how much technology is too much?
If you're ready to allow your child a certain amount of screen time, how do you decide how much is too much?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 90 percent of parents report that their children younger than 2 watch some form of electronic media. By age 3, almost one-third of children have a television in their bedroom.
The Kaiser Foundation conducted a study and determined that 8- to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven-and-a-half hours.
The AAP recommends that children older than 2 have no more than two hours per day of screen time; this means to all forms of technology that uses screens. And for children under 2, they don't recommend it at all. They say the lack of evidence supporting educational or developmental benefits for media use was one of their key determining factors.
How do you limit screen time?
Claire Haas, an early childhood educator and vice president of education for Kiddie Academy says, “While the two-hour goal of daily screen time might seem difficult to meet, parents need to strive to keep that human connection with their children and stimulate their brains in other ways. The best way to do this is to start early before there are any habits to break.”
To help curb children’s screen time at an early age, Haas, suggests utilizing the four Ms:
- Monitoring – Become familiar and interact with online sites before allowing your child to visit them. Talk about why he wants a video or a smart phone. By talking about your reasons, you can help your child become mindful of her screen time.
- Maintain a balance – Technology should fit into your family routine, rather than become the routine.
- Moderation – It's important to teach your child to be aware of how much time he is spending in front of a screen, so he can begin to make decisions on how to use that time.
- Model good practices – If you want your child to limit screen time, but regularly pull out your phone at the dinner table, you are sending mixed messages.
Important things to remember
Once you and your spouse have come to a decision about how much screen time you'll allow your kids to have, make sure you present a united front when relaying the rules. And if you and your spouse ever feel the need to "pull the plug" on some screen time to make room for family time, don't feel guilty for a second. Because being connected to your kids is more important than your kids being connected to their gadgets.