Albert Einstein said it best. “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Technology has become a legitimate thing to be worried about. The average person checks their phone 47 times a day, 80 percent of people use their phones before going to bed, and two out of every three people are addicted to their phone.
What does this all mean? Adults are using their phones way too much, and their behaviors are mimicked by their children.
According to The Center for Parenting Education, it’s estimated that people between the ages of 8 to 28 spend about 44.5 hours each week in front of digital screens. About 23 percent of kids and teens have reported that they actually feel like they have addictions to video games. Digital addiction is a real threat to kids. Like many things in life, screen time should be handled in moderation – too much of anything can become problematic.
Before you take steps to manage your child’s screen time, it is probably worthwhile to assess your own screen time consumption and make efforts to alter your own habits. If you are trying to implement restrictions on your child’s technology, then you should be willing to practice what you preach.
Here are three steps you should take as the parent (for yourself and your family):
1. Educate yourself on all electronics.
This doesn’t mean you need to subscribe to Consumer Reports or Popular Mechanics; however, you should know the basics about tablets, laptops, and phones. You need to know which apps work on each system and how you should administer controls on each device. Get familiar with the basics such as clearing cache, bookmarking, checking the history, flagging spam, viewing text messages and direct messages, and other location settings.
2. Set times to unplug and stick to them.
Create no screen time policies for the dinner table, during family time, while having conversations with each other, when doing classwork, when completing work from home, or etc. Having limits in place will keep everyone in check and create a more balanced environment. Everyone should follow the rules – there are no exceptions.
3. Model healthy electronic use.
Having a healthy usage of technology means you’re not consumed or attached to a screen every day all day long. Try to ditch your phone – sometimes that means hiding your phone from yourself. When you are spending time with your children and other family members, try to be fully present – which means putting the phone away.
Now that you have a better idea of what managing screen time means let’s see what steps you need to take so you can oversee your child’s screen time.
Obtain your child’s passwords.
You should know what your child’s passwords are for every device and account they have access to. Since multiple passwords and usernames can be challenging to remember, consider writing down everything in a notebook or saving this information in the notes app on your phone.
Set up times to check your child’s account(s).
Set a reminder on your phone or in your planner to check your child’s accounts at least once a week. When you check their screens, it is important to look at their usage durations and make sure that they are abiding by the restrictions. Check the sites they are visiting and read the messaging threads they are participating in.
It is important to make sure that your child isn’t accessible to everyone and anyone – narrow down their list by adjusting parental controls. Take the time to have honest conversations with your child about online predators and how to stay safe.
Install parental restrictions on all devices.
If your child has access to Netflix, set up their own kid’s account. If your child has a phone, set up restrictions on who they can call and text. If your child has their own tablet, limit the websites and apps they can visit and/or download.
For apps, there are several options that allow parents to approve screen time and downloaded items. Set everything up so you are the one approving the downloads, rather than your child making that decision.
Encourage your child to do other activities.
Screen time can be overwhelming and extremely addicting. Take the time to do things with your child that does not involve any technology. Actively look for ways your child can have fun without technology – play sports outside, ride bicycles, create crafts, take a walk, or learn to cook a new recipe. There are several ways children can be active and remove themselves from the digital world; however, it is important for parents to recognize the responsibility of assigning/encouraging their children to do these activities.
Make screen time a privilege.
Screen time should not be a right. Just like the TV or computer, if a child demonstrates negative attitudes and/or actions, the privilege of screen time should be taken away. If your child has set screen times when they are allowed to be on, then you can reward them with additional screen time when they demonstrate good behavior.
Don’t allow screen media to be in your child’s bedroom.
It is basically impossible to monitor your child’s media if it is allowed in their bedroom. You will not be able to hear their interactions, and their presence can go unnoticed, making their screen times longer because you forgot they were on. It will be easier to monitor your child’s usage if they are nearby.
Limit the number of apps and games your child is playing.
If your child is a gamer, they may be zoned in on one game; however, there are other things such as social media (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) and other programming that can captivate your child’s attention. If there are a limited number of apps and programs to check, it will make it easier for you to monitor everything, and it will also decrease your child’s digital footprint.
Do the research and be aware of the age requirements for games and apps. There is a reason why parental guidelines are administered, and sometimes they are not accurate when you take your own values and ethics into the mix. Social media is another beast, and the emotional stresses that are put on people (adults included) can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, think long and hard if social media is really necessary for your child because once you open that door, there is no going back.
Screen time is a fairly new outlet. The generation before us didn’t have all the new gadgets and programs that are readily available now. It is important to do the research and not stay pinned down to a set number of guidelines – make sure that you do what fits the best for you and your child.