Screen Time – TV, Computers and Your Kids
Congratulations, you found a babysitter. Now it’s time to set some limits. A great babysitter should love, engage and interact with your children. Unfortunately, television and computer games don’t. I know, there’s all this hype about educational benefits, but lets face it, nothing beats good old fashioned play and you spending time with your child.
There are safe amounts of TV and computer time for children over the age of 2 years, but if kids are exposed to too much you can bet their behavior will be less than satisfactory. Children need to play, read, run around and blow off steam. Sit them in front of a screen for extended periods of time and you’ll have bored, under stimulated children=nightmare!
Also, TV time has been linked to ADD if viewed under the age of 2. This can be easily avoided but make sure you discuss this with your caregivers. TV should never be used as a babysitter. Many parents do admit to using TV as a babysitter. Children should never watch TV unsupervised.
Child development experts have studied this behavior closely and have recommended a daily “total screen time” for kids, whether it be TV or computer it should be limited to one hour a day.
Assess how your children spend their free time and exactly how much time they are spending on the computer or viewing television programs. A realistic goal is a child playing computer games and viewing videos for about 40-45 minutes a day and limiting them to one TV program. This is acceptable if they are also playing outside, getting physical play/exercise, completing all homework and doing chores. This would be nothing to cause for concern or alarm.
The issue is when your child plays computer or video games or plots themselves in front of the tube for hours on end. Time to set limits and strictly enforce them. Make sure consequences arise from not following your limits.
This can be further enforced by not having a TV or computer in your child’s room. This concept is ridiculous. Either have a family computer or make sure you have access to everything they view and that they are properly supervised. You should also set parental controls as necessary.
Here’s our top 5 tips for getting your child’s viewing habits under control …
- Set a time limit before they even turn on the TV or computer. It helps if they have a visual such as a timer and reminders about how much time they have left. When the timer goes off, so does the screen. This should go on without question. No negotiations! The easy thing is you can always unplug the electronics if they resist.
- Homework and chores must be done before TV or computer time. Check their homework and ensure they finish chores. Viewing time will be much more rewarding for both of you.
- Present your child with alternatives when time is up. This may make the transition easier and they are less likely to argue. Games, reading, arts and crafts, sports – plan something out that is readily available to them.
- Know what your child is doing. Check out their online activity and have them explain the game to you and whether or not it is online or a disc, etc. Do they play or chat with other people? Use your safety judgement. Violence is out and age-appropriate is in, especially with things they show on TV.
- Have a solution for their protests. Yes, they may be in the middle of a game or show but they should have known their time was coming to an end. Ask them to save the game they are playing or suggest you record the rest of the program. DVR is a great option, too.