In the wake of the Kaiser Family Foundation study, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, which showed that childrens’ exposure to media is increasing at an alarming rate, a lot of parents might be wondering, “but how can we control it?”
Believe me, I feel your pain.
My own kids aren’t allowed to play video games and we try to keep a reasonable limit on TV and movies. Even so, the number of times that they grab for my Blackberry or my husband’s iPhone, or insist on looking something up on the Internet, or want to download something from iTunes, or waltz into a bookstore and go straight for the computer to look up their book (instead of searching the shelves) is making me a little crazy. The plethora of screens in our culture is beginning to seem like the Pied Piper — drawing our children away from family life, exercise, books, crafts, daydreaming, and just plain having fun.
So I spent a few minutes this week looking for some kind of good guidelines on limiting screen time and found these:
1) Measure how much time they’re spending in front of the screen. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a screen time log that you can use to keep track.
2) Set a time limit: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children younger than two and two hours (or less) of screen time for other children. And screen time, by the way, includes computer, video games, and cell/smart phones with texting, emailing, or Internet capabilities.
3) Be a good role model: Limit your own screen time (outside of work) to the same two hours.
4) Have other distractions: Oftentimes kids end up playing on the computer or watching TV because they don’t have other things to do. Keep a list of other things they can do, such as read, skateboard, sew, listen to audio books, play a board game, play basketball, do a puzzle, paint, write a letter, play an instrument, make a fort, work with clay…the list goes on and on. And of course, there are always chores.
5) Limit screen locations: Keep TVs and computers out of the kids’ bedrooms. And turn off the TV during meals or when people aren’t actively watching. The Generation M2 study showed that kids watch an hour more of TV when it’s in their room and a full 90 minutes more when it’s on all the time.
Most important: Tell your children why they’re limiting their screen time. I.e., it’s better for their minds. It’s better for their bodies. It’s better for the families. And it will give them more opportunities to learn to understand themselves and relate to others.