How to build healthy screen habits with kids

In the digital age, screens are now an everyday part of life and are integral to a child’s development from a very young age.  The challenge comes in how to manage screen usage and build healthy screen habits in your kids whilst also accepting the role they play in modern society.

Don’t be a Hypocrite

First and foremost, you should check your own habits before you even try and manage your child’s.  Track how much time you spend using screens and try and manage that time better for yourself if it seems excessive.  Kids will imitate the behaviour of the adults around them, they learn by example.  If you are constantly on screens they will want to be to.  When you then turn around and reduce their time with screens, whilst keeping up a large amount of time using screens yourself, kids feel that this is unfair and that they are not being treated with respect.

 

Set Limits and Ease Transition from Screen Time

As early as possible, teach kids that they should limit the amount of time spent staring at a screen.  Set time limits when they are using screens and build a habit of turning off once the time has ended.

It can be very hard for children to separate from their screen once the time is over, especially when they are playing a game that is specifically targeted to stimulate and keep you playing.

When you tell your child to turn off the screen be reasonable.  Listen to their position and work together to come up with a solution.  It may be better to be flexible by a few minutes rather than immediately shutting down at the exact moment the time limit has ended in order to show empathy with your child.  This can make it easier for your children to transition away from the screen and more likely to pay attention to you when you ask them to turn off the screen in the future.  They feel heard.

Children will also use screens more and more for schooling now, it’s important to recognise the difference between time spent on schoolwork and time spent on leisure.

We are now also becoming aware of the effect of blue light on sleeping patterns.  As such, it may be worth putting a blue light filter on your child’s screen for two to three hours before bedtime in order to help them wind down easier.

 

Mentor as well as Monitor

Every parent feels a sense of discomfort when it comes to the threat screens possess in terms of the content your child is interacting with.  As such, it can be easy to become strict monitors of what content they are accessing as well as the time spent using screens.  Whilst you should be aware what your child is looking at online, it’s better to engage with your child and discuss the worries you have as they grow in order to give them some autonomy.

Discuss online safety and warning signs that they should look out for.  Speak to them about site age limits as well as age limits on video games.

Be a mentor to your child when using a screen, educate them on fact checking sources and share links to content you would be happy for them to engage with.  Talk about content they enjoy with them and try and make it into a good development situation where your child feels safe to open up to you.

 

When to Get Professional Help

If your child is just displaying their independence and trying to test the limits there is no need to bring in professional help immediately.  You should only look into getting support from a mental health professional if your child has become overly dependent on screens and becomes incredibly anxious, angry, or obsessive around screen time.

You may also want to look into getting some help if your child is having their self-esteem or self-image negatively impacted by screen time as a way to help them manage these feelings they are experiencing.

 

Overall, you don’t want to make your child feel isolated and judged by screen time.  The best way to build healthy habits in them is to start by doing so for yourself.  When you are using screens, engage with your child and share content you both can enjoy.  Let your child feel like you understand their point of view and feel safe to come to you when they are having issues.  In the end this will produce a child who has online autonomy as well as staying safe.

 

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