The pandemic changed American life — for better and for worse. One of the less-pleasant side effects was having millions of children spending even more time glued to their screen, regardless of the impact on their health.
However, society is returning to normal, and you should get your kids up and moving — especially if they are still homeschooling. Here are six tips for parents for setting screen time limits for their kids.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the value of going outside more often — especially during a pandemic. While you might want to still avoid crowds if you’re medically vulnerable, a wide-open playground or park offers little infection risk. Spending time in nature could even boost your body’s immune response as you breathe in phytoncides from trees and let the sun bathe your body in natural vitamin D. These benefits also apply to your little one.
Plus, taking your children outdoors helps them meet the World Health Organization guidelines for physical activity. Children up to five years of age require 180 minutes of movement for muscular and skeletal development, and those older than five still require an hour of moderate to vigorous activity per day.
The best part? If you’ve ever tried to experience the joy of working outdoors while telecommuting during the pandemic, you know how hard it is to see a screen in sunlight. Have your children leave their electronics indoors when you head outside for “recess.”
Even if you homeschool your children, you can find ways to participate in safe extracurricular activities. Your local parks and recreation department is a great resource. You can also look into various arts and science camps, dance lessons, martial arts — whatever strikes your child’s fancy.
While you should never force your child to participate in a sport they dislike, they should find something they love. Getting involved in extracurricular activities opens your child’s mind to new points of view. It helps them develop skills they otherwise wouldn’t in the traditional classroom. When it comes time to apply for jobs, their involvement looks good on a resume — and college applications. It also keeps them off their phones.
Have you implemented a rule prohibiting phones and tablets from the dinner table? If not, please do.
Of course, this suggestion means sitting down for a meal together as a family, at least a few times a week. The benefits of keeping a family mealtime include better academic performance and higher self-esteem. As your kids reach their teen years, connecting with you regularly over breaking bread reduces the risk of teen pregnancy and drug use.
If you’re not savvy to technology, your children will surpass you in no time. You might want to sign up for an inexpensive course at your local library or community college if you’re a bit phobic.
Once you master the basics, work those parental controls. You can block access to certain websites, such as social media, between certain hours. You can also filter potentially offensive content.
If your child’s bedroom doubles as their study center, you can’t very well ask them to keep electronics elsewhere. However, you can create a charging station in your kitchen or living room where they plug in their phones and tablets before turning in for the evening. Use parental controls to keep them from accessing social media on personal computers after hours.
The dinner table is another aforementioned tech-free zone. You might decide on others — for example, prohibiting electronic use outside.
You can’t expect your kids to heed what you say about setting screen time limits if you walk around with your nose glued to your phone. You need to model the desired behavior — including putting your electronic devices down when heading out to play or sitting down to supper.
Doing so may mean having a heart-to-heart with your boss about setting healthy boundaries between your work and home life. For example, you might agree on setting a reasonable timeframe for responding to after-hours requests — they shouldn’t expect a reply in minutes during your family’s usual dinner hour.
Depending on your workplace, you might not have to heed after-hours calls at all. Portugal recently made it illegal for your employer to contact you outside of working hours. While no such ruling is likely to pass in the United States anytime soon, progressive companies that care about their employees’ work-life balance will respect similar limits.
The pandemic has many people staring at their devices more often — including children. Follow these six tips for setting screen time limits with your little ones.