We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world. – David Warlick, an early adopter and promoter of technology in the classroom. Named one of the Ten Most Influential People in EdTech by Technology & Learning Magazine in 2011.
Screen time is a huge reality of life for the children of the current generation. And why just for children? Screen time is a big reality of our lives, as well. We are surrounded by technology, A.I. and screens all around. Imagining a life without our smartphones, laptops, GPS, smart watches, Alexa, etc., is basically what our nightmares are made of. When our entire surrounding and lifestyle is made to run smoothly via these screens and tech, it is entirely understandable for our children to covet it too!
Whether we like it or not, kids will use technology. These technologies will drive their lives way more than ours. It is a significant and inevitable component of the reality we are bringing them up in. Therefore, they need to be introduced to the know-how of technologies early on so that the constantly evolving world doesn’t confuse them. And this has to be done gradually and, more importantly, safely to ensure healthy screen time habits.
Screens are the most accessible and desired format of technology that children are interested in. Enjoying online content, gaming and even learning via screens is what kids prefer these days.
Our struggle as a parent remains how to manage screen time and find the balance between keeping the fun and learning at a healthy point. How not to let screens become an obsession. Not letting screen time weigh on other vital factors of their lives while growing up, like playing outside, eating healthy, developing good communication skills and personality, and managing everyday life and routine.
Here are our top screen time tips for kids to transform it into a healthy, fun and educational routine in our kid’s daily life:
1. Screen time as routine
Kids understand routine infinitely better than we give them credit for. In fact, routine helps them feel safe and is crucial for building good habits right from childhood!
Routine makes it easier for children to comply with scheduled screen time without tantrums. The key is to impress on them that screen time will be at the same set hours every day. Since they know they will get an hour of screen time to unwind after school or before dinnertime, they will be able to treat it as an everyday part of their routine. The constant tussles and demands for random screen time throughout the day will probably be resolved. So, making that YouTube time for kids a set routine is our top suggestion!
2. Avoid screens during meal times
Such an important rule for kids and adults, right?
Be it a child or an adult, everyone has a full schedule these days. Meal times are, therefore, the most apt time to put away all the screens and connect as a family. Rather, get to know about each other’s day, focus on food and nutrition, and nurture the body, mind and family ties. Screens at meal times disrupt communications and lead to fussy eating, tantrums, bad food associations and disconnect with family members. Evidence supports that screen time at meals leads to childhood obesity and other adverse health effects. Thus, it is a crucial screen time recommendation to keep meal times as family time.
3. Teach balance through examples
Setting the right examples early on is key. We must find a balance with our screen time to teach healthy screen time habits to kids.
Of course, handheld devices are crucial to the smooth functioning of our work and home life, considering the digitized world we live in. But we need to:
a) explain early on that we are using the device for our work or some other necessity, and
b) keep our scrolling and social media time limited, especially around the gaze of kids.
The important thing is to teach kids balance. To teach them that everything has a time and a place in life and that one particular thing should not take precedence over other.
4. Put the screens away during family outings
It is important to weave in a lot of activities and hobbies in our children’s lives to nurture a love for nature and the outdoors, to inculcate habits of going out, playing and enjoying things outside of the home and screens.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to model it to the child. We should make it a point to set some days for family outings. And on those days, keep our screens out of the way. Enjoy the little things, point them out to our children, share our enthusiasm and later discuss which part of the day they enjoyed the most. No screen time is greater than family time and the undivided attention of caregivers and our kid’s genuine happiness will prove this every time.
5. Monitor screen time content
Screen safety is of utmost importance. As much as we try, the wrong kind of content and interactions, especially on online channels, is a real possibility.
Sometimes they can come across content that does not reflect our personal beliefs and mindset, even on channels we trust. It is necessary to monitor the content constantly and the channels the kids access during screen time. Multiple platforms update screen time guides for kids, and we can use them to stay informed. Remember, one of the most important screen time tips for kids is to stay updated and verify everything before allowing them to interact with games, videos, or other apps and tech.
6. Choose pertinent screen time options
Choose the screen time content and mode wisely. When you are around or sitting down with them, monitor screen time, utilize online channels and watch movies, series, and videos. Enjoy that Youtube time with kids!
But when allowing independent screen time, it’s better to choose offline or tried and tested modes and channels. For example, educational games like the ones that PlayShifu offers–Orboot globes, or STEM-based Plugo game sets, etc. Or maybe a spot of gaming with non-violent and inoffensive games you’ve played together on your Nintendos previously, etc. Similarly, choose devices accordingly, as well. Too many handheld devices with free access lead to problems. In this regard, big screens, limited app access over small screens, and unrestricted app hopping is our screen time recommendation.
7. Utilize parental controls
Most devices, online channels, and social media pages offer parental control. Our responsibility is to learn how to use these parental controls best to keep our kid’s screen time healthy, entertaining, and educational.
From parental locks, passwords, and permissions to parental discretions, utilize all the tools available to keep the kids safe and use their screen time correctly. Parental controls, in our view, are one of the big answers to how to manage screen time remotely for our children.
8. Have screen time conversations
Screen time isn’t a one-time, monthly or annual thing. It’s a constant. As our kids grow, they will navigate various content on screen, sometimes unfavorable, even.
So screen time rules, requirements, availability, quality of content, anything and everything under the purview of screen time should be open to constant discussion. Keeping the child aware of the pitfalls of excessive screen time or the dangers of online content are very delicate topics that need a friendly, sometimes firm, and constant conversation. To foster a healthy screen time relationship, we must always keep the communications channel open and approachable for our child.
9. Productive and active screen time
Focus on productive screen time over mindless content. What we mean here is to focus on games, videos, websites, and apps that are interactive, educational and add value to the time spent on screen, as opposed to, content that kids use to tune out of their surroundings.
Same way, active screen time over passive screen time is a must for healthy screen time. A game of tennis on the Wii console together or dancing to your favorite songs, watching choreography videos, or even games and videos that actively involve you in processing the information and interacting back is the aim here. Keep your eyes open for screen time guides for kids that give you children’s show or game suggestions that keep their body, mind, or both in active mode.
10. Be flexible but firm
Although kids like routine, any part of the routine that is rigid leads to power fights and protests by children, in general. We, as parents, always want what is best for our kids. But some days, please read sick days, long travel days, mental health days, and holidays might require more screen time than recommended. Similarly, sometimes family outings, celebrations, and vacations may call for non-screen days. Be flexible, go with the flow, and work things out per your family’s needs. At the same time, be firm enough to go back to the screen time routine once back to everyday life.
Navigating screen time isn’t easy for a parent at any point in time. The requirements, the content, the devices, the technology—everything keeps on changing, and to stay on top of that game is, at times, stressful. The guilt piled on parents by people and media on the topic of healthy screen time is also surreal.
But every parent wants only the best for their child. They understand, too, more than anyone else what works best for their child and their family. Accepting this as parents and as a village that supports parents ensures that screen time goes back to what it meant to us in our childhood, an entertaining break, a learning opportunity, and family times spent together having lots of fun!
These screen time tips for kids are the result of more than two years of research on the topic by a fellow parent. We hope it struck a chord with you and addressed some of your worries. Do connect and comment, sharing your views about these tips and if you have more to share with our parent community!