These days, parents have a lot more to think about than simply teaching their children to look both ways before they cross the street. Indeed, child safety concerns have come to include many potential dangers associated with technology that adults often find difficult to understand themselves.
Therefore, learning about device usage and deciding on a reasonable way to teach it to your kids is imperative. Let’s take a closer look at the factors that you should take into consideration when deciding how much, and what type of screen time to give your kids.
Average Screen Time for Kids
The screen time that you should be allotting to your kids depends on their age. To keep things in perspective, we can break down the suggested times into three different age groups. These suggested amounts have been put together by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the US.
For kids under the age of two, it is generally suggested not to let kids use devices at all, except for occasions in which the whole family is talking to someone online.
From ages two to five, the APA recommends no more than one hour of screen time per day, and they also suggest that it be monitored by a parent or older sibling.
For kids over five, it is suggested that kids limit their recreational use to two hours a day. However, it is often the case that homework assignments involve the use of online material, so this can be considered a separate category of usage. Nonetheless, monitoring is critical as kids can easily stray from educational sites to other ones.
Screentime Effects (Physical and Emotional)
There are quite a few potential health risks associated with the excessive use of devices. Among other things, vision and related areas can become affected. And this can involve many more areas than simply vision itself. Experts say that staring at screens for too long can cause headaches, eye strain, as well as more general problems such as obesity and sleep disorders. In addition, kids can become irritable, ill-mannered, and their desire to socialize naturally with other kids can decrease.
Indeed, kids who are given free reign to use their devices at will can come to assume that they can just sit glued to their screens all day. And when this happens, trying to take a device away from a screen-addicted kid can be unimaginably difficult for parents. Beyond that, it can be psychologically traumatizing for the child as addictive habits become imprinted on people’s psyches. To suddenly find yourself without something you’re used to using all day long – regardless of your age – can be as traumatizing as withdrawing from substance use or other dangerous habits.
How Can You Keep Your Kids Safe?
It is critical that parents devise methods to regulate their kids’ screen time and keep them aware that there is a world out there beyond the Internet. How can you do this, without seeming unfair in the eyes of your kids?
Actually, there are quite a few things that you can do. Let’s take a look at several concrete measures that parents are taking to minimize the risks involved in kids’ excessive device usage.
Preview Programs, Games, and Apps
Although it will be difficult to have complete control over your kids’ online behavior, given the extent to which the Internet is constantly evolving, there are certainly a number of things that you can do to monitor the apps and programs you’re familiar with.
One obvious thing that you can do is test those programs yourself. Of course, this can sometimes be tough as kids are often savvier than their parents about how to use certain programs these days. But to whatever extent possible, try to keep in touch with which programs are installed on your kids’ devices and check them out yourself. If you find that one of the games your teenage son likes to play involves shockingly real depictions of terrorist activity, you might consider forcing him to stop using it.
Filter the Content
Another thing that you can do is set up profiles for your kids on their iOS or Android devices to filter the content they see. This way, you won’t have to force your kids to get off of certain kinds of sites because they won’t have access to them in the first place. Again, this won’t be a wholesale solution as new sites could come out that are also potentially problematic. But it will certainly help.
Encourage Your Kids to Take Breaks
During the time when your kids are at home, you can take the time to schedule breaks into their schedules. You can incentivize other types of activities by offering your kids different types of things and playing with them that they might also enjoy. You can also schedule devices to turn off after a certain period of usage.
Take Care of Your Kids’ Eyes
As mentioned above, spending excessive time looking at computer screens can be very hard on the eyes. This goes especially for children, whose bodies are changing as they grow.
There are several things that you can do to help protect your kids’ eyes from excessive strain while looking at their screens. For one thing, you can buy big screens that will be farther away from them. Research has shown that looking at closer screens causes greater strain on the eyes. Therefore, it would be to your advantage to invest in monitors that will be larger and farther away from where your kids are seated.
Another thing that you can do is to consider buying blue light computer glasses that filter out blue light rays. There are different types of light that are emitted from screens, and blue light (also known as blue-ray light) is known to be particularly harmful to the eyes. Therefore, special glasses have been invented that block this type of light. If your child wears glasses, you should consider this option. These special glasses help reduce dry, irritated, and sore eyes, and prevent headaches.
Teach Your Kids about Online Privacy
Beyond simply manipulating your kids’ devices yourself, you should also teach your kids how to protect themselves online. Once kids are old enough to understand what it means to share content and open up different websites, they should start to learn about what it means to restrict their online presence.
Talk to your kids about what appropriate levels of online sharing should be. Also, teach them about red flags for potentially harmful websites. Even if they are young, they can learn to look out for certain kinds of things.
Lead by Example
Another obvious thing you can do to encourage limited screen time in your kids is to limit your own. As the generations go by, this will become increasingly difficult as there will be fewer people left that remember the pre-digital age. But it’s good to keep in mind that there’s a real world out there beyond our devices and that fresh air can be a wonderful thing.
A Final Note
Once again, you’re never going to be able to protect your kids from every online danger. Just as you’ll never be able to protect them from every danger in the physical world. But you can do your best to stay on top of things and keep your kids as safe as possible. You just need to be conscientious about it. And – perhaps most importantly – check regularly for new activities, both on your kids’ devices and online in general.