Parents across the world are struggling to find ways to get their kids to look up from phones, computers, and T.Vs. And with schools leaning on virtual classrooms, it’s more important than ever for you to help teach proper screen habits to your kids. Children today spend an average of up to six hours a day in front of screens—and that number increases to nine hours when they’re teenagers. Of course, it doesn’t help that we as adults stare at our screens for hours on end too—it’s not a surprise they picked up some of our own bad habits.
It’s near impossible to avoid screens these days, especially if your child needs them to go to class everyday. Still, internet dependence is a growing problem. Since brains don’t stop developing until 25 years old, children who are using technology too much become high-risk of developing a technology addiction.
Helping your child (and yourself) build positive internet habits and developing a healthy relationship with technology is more important than ever in the world right now.
Your Child May Need a Digital Detox
Just like you can become addicted to smoking, drinking, or any other vice, you can become addicted to screens. Technology addiction has become a real medical concern, especially for children. Social media like Tik Tok, Twitter, and YouTube can take over their lives, and while withdrawal is always scary, it will be helpful in the long run to help them quit cold turkey for a while.
If your child is struggling with issues like irritability, mood swings, low grades, problems sleeping, or is having difficulty communicating face-to-face, they might be caused by too much screen time. Over time, too much screen time can have a negative impact on your kid’s social and cognitive development.
Set Technology Expectations
When your child is old enough to have devices of their own, it’s important that you set rules and expectations on how they should use that tech. Make sure they know that you trust them, since giving your child freedom to make their own decisions is an important part in their development. Still, setting rules will help them become more responsible as they grow up.
With younger children, you could set technology rules like how many minutes every day they can use screens. For older children, educating your child about how to best use their screens can be part of your expectation training. You should talk about the types of sites you don’t want them to visit and the dangers that lurk online, what time they should put screens away at night, and how to keep their devices backed up and safe in case of accidents.
Because COVID-19 has changed the way children interact with screens throughout the day, screen time has dramatically increased across the country. Make sure that part of your rules and expectations around screens is to take a break from them whenever possible—since they can strain your eyes if you’re staring at a screen all day.
Use Technology To Your Advantage
Tech companies understand that parents want to limit their childrens’ screen time, and they’ve made doing that as simple as possible. Most cell phones today have parental control features that can help you control your kid’s screen time and what apps and other functions they can have access to. There are also a lot of apps on the market that can help you limit your kids tech time, track their location, and screen dangerous websites. It may become unnecessary as they grow older, but using these tools to your advantage when they’re young can help them have better screen habits.
Create Screen-Free Areas In Your Home
Try making parts of your house screen-free. That means no cell phones, no television, and no computers. Places in your home like the bedroom and the dining room table are great places to try it out. Doing this can not only help save their eyes from strain, it can help you as a family become more connected and bond while you’re together at home. Family bonding moments are important, and screen-free zones are a great way to get that much needed family time.
Spend Time With Your Kids Outside
You don’t have to go on a massive backpacking trip to enjoy the outdoors and get away from screens. Take your kids on a bike ride around the neighborhood, or on a nearby hiking trail. Spending time outside is not only good exercise and gives everyone a breath of fresh air, it keeps their mind engaged and off their phones. And of course, the lack of cell service and WiFi when you’re out in nature doesn’t hurt.
Don’t Forget About Your Own Rules
Once you have rules around technology and screens in place for your children, don’t forget to actually enforce those rules. If you forget about them, or even worse, give in to their begging, it can hurt them as they grow up. Since children today have grown up around screens, you essentially need to treat your kid as a mini tech addict. Crying, anger, or other tantrums when you don’t let them have screen time can be a form of withdrawal. At the end of the day, you’re the adult and their parent. Even if they are struggling being away from their screens, you know that these rules will help them in the long run.