Thank you to Amy Williams for this guest post. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind as I’m currently writing the second book in the Naked Parenting series on social media and technology. I asked readers for their input on the next parenting topic to address and this is the one I’m tackling now.
Guest Post by Amy Williams, journalist and former social work specializing in teen behavioral health.
The rapid advancement of technology in our world poses new challenges for parents who are already trying to achieve what is best for their kids in different areas of life. As more kinds of technology become accessible to kids of all ages, it is essential for parents to consider how best to protect their children as they grow and develop. How do you set technology limits for your kids?
What is Considered “Screen Time?”
“Screen time” is a common term that professionals in child development use to cover all kinds of screens – such as televisions, tablets, smartphones, video games, and movies – that children are exposed to on a daily basis.
The term “screen time” more specifically refers to any passive time that children spend in front of a monitor. Generally, there is very little movement as people are in front of a screen, and there is no interaction with the larger world. This is a concern as young children grow and develop.
Recommended Technology Limits for Kids
When parents consider daily screen time limits for their children, there are two important factors: how much is appropriate and the quality of what kids are exposed to during that screen time.
From birth to two years of age, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that children get no screen time at all. During this stage of life, babies and toddlers require constant touch and physical stimulation for healthy brain development to occur. When very young children are moving, touching objects, putting things into their mouths, and interacting socially with others, their brain is experiencing growth that is vital to their development.
Limits on technology are also necessary as children get older. Recommendations state that from ages 2 to 8, parents should avoid showing their children shows that have fast-moving images, as this is not what the brain needs. Screen time limits include 30 minutes to an hour at most in front of a screen, which can be adjusted to two hours per day at the most as kids grow older.
Tweens between the ages of 8 and 12 need careful monitoring and clear expectations to limit time and exposure. Teenagers, who are developing into adults, live socially and complete much of their schoolwork online, practicing a high level of digital literacy.
While the idea of building digital literacy is important, there is little evidence that these skills need to be encouraged in young children. There is plenty of time for parents to introduce different aspects of digital literacy as children grow and develop.
Setting Technology Limits For Kids
Parents do not need to be afraid to put off shelling out the money for electronic gadgets that their kids aren’t developmentally ready for. As children grow and develop, keeping a limited amount of media in the home can also help set limits for kids of all ages.
Regardless of a child’s age, it is extremely important to set technology limits. These can include:
- Keeping kids involved in activities. Children need social interaction and different stimuli to help their brains grow and develop.
- Keeping technology out in the open. There is no need for kids to have technological devices in bedrooms.
- Using parental controls. Most electronic devices come with ways for parents to set time and content limits.
- Implementing monitoring software, which helps parents see exactly what their kids are doing online.
- One easy basic rule for parents to include is to allow no screen time during the week except what is needed for homework and limited access to technology on weekends.
It’s important that, before these guidelines are set, everyone involved is in agreement. Disagreements in parenting philosophies has been shown to be one of the ten most frequent disagreements in marriage. Carefully thinking through this important issue will help parents maintain healthy technology limits for their kids as they grow and develop.
Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be. Follow Amy on Twitter.
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