By Chris O’Brien President, NetSafe Family
School’s out for the summer! Riding bikes, skinned knees, climbing trees, what could be better? Wait a minute, something is missing…. Yes how can we forget those other summertime activities; video games, YouTube, chat groups, surfing the web, streaming movies……, all part of the potential “screen time” overloading we parents will face this summer.
Here’s the question: is all this tech and screen time an okay way for kids to make it through the summertime doldrums? If you are looking for basic guidelines, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends setting time limits:
• Children 18 months or younger: no screen time.
• Children 2-5 years: no more than 1 hour a day of supervised screen time.
• Children 6 years and up: use your best judgment but not more than 2 hours a day.
Why the limits? Studies on excessive entertainment-based screen time show that conditions like childhood depression, obesity, trouble sleeping, and introverted behavior are often linked to too much screen time. Experts like, Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State have shown that too much screen time is harming the overall mental health of our children. Note: the average teenage boy spends nearly 8 hours looking at a screen daily (not including homework).
The good news is we have options that don’t include “accidentally” dropping your child’s smartphone into the ocean. Tech solutions can be very helpful in limiting screen time and protecting your children from other kinds of online dangers; here are some examples of what we typically recommend to our clients:
• Make sure your home Wi-Fi and internet network is secure and protected.
• Set up content blocking (blacklisting) software on the network, this will block inappropriate content such as graphic violence, illegal behavior, and adult content from your child’s device.
• Configure home internet access time controls, (apple computers have a daily limit program that you can set up, we have an app that controls time limits by user).
• When you go to bed, shut off the internet.
• Set up the parental controls on all of your child’s devices.
On the non-tech side, and this is the hard part, make and stick to family “Techtime” RULES. Personally, I have had some success using a “Summer Techtime” agreement with my children, which includes statements like:
• This device belongs to my parents, I get to use it as a privilege.
• I will listen to my parents and put down my device when asked.
• There will be no screen time 1 hour before bed, and all devices will be out of my room for bedtime.
• I will tell my parents when I encounter cyberbullying, violence, or other media content that makes me feel uncomfortable while at home or at a friend’s house.
• I (Parent) will put my phone down when I am home and by no means will I bring it to the dinner table…..again… 😊
You get the point, it is all about communication and giving your child responsibility not only for the device but for how it is being used. One hero parent I know actually covers all these bases at once by using tech to start family communication with a “favorite video of the week” hour. You can almost hear all the ooh’s, aah’s, OMG’s, and laughs.
Good luck, and as we head into summer, my wish is for several skinned knees, lots of games of Monopoly, and no early onset carpal tunnel cases!
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Chris O’Brien is president of NetSafe Family, a internet safety company featuring technology rated “Best in Class” by the Wall Street Journal.