As a young mom, I have to make sure my kids don’t spend too much time on the internet.
Millennials have officially grown up. We’re now well into adulthood and some of us have families of our own. Like, we’re officially adulting, we have little humans that depend on us, tiny people we’re responsible for.
As parents, we have to ensure that we’re raising empathetic, smart, confident individuals. We also have to keep them alive.
We are the in-between generation. The ones that played outside and ate sand, but also the ones who now don’t get out of bed before scrolling at least a mile on Instagram every morning. You can say we’ve had the best of both worlds (minus the crippling effects of inflation, property prices and global warming of course).
As parents, we have the world at our fingertips. Is my kid’s poop green? Google. Did my kid swallow a spider? Google. Is my kid being annoying? YouTube. Do I need half an hour to work on this article? Netflix (which is actually happening right now).
How, with technology completely taking over every single aspect of our lives, do we control the amount of exposure to screen-time our children receive? How do we prevent them from consuming too much content, but at the same time let them have enough?
Here’s how I’ve managed to control screen-time with my two (almost three) year-old, and you can too:
Set a screen-time limit:
You can’t go in blind with this. Chances are your kid is probably watching some sort of screen on a daily basis, how much though? How much is too much? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
– 0-2 years: No screen-time
– 2 years – 5 years: up to 1 hour a day
– 6 years + – parents should limit allow screen-time based on their child’s individual needs
Based on your child’s age, set a limit. Most importantly, stick to your guns. When time’s up, it’s up, even if your child thinks you’re a monster when you decide it’s time to do something else (they will, trust me).
Make it a part of their routine
Screen-time shouldn’t be the result of a tantrum, or a reward for tidying up. If you want to give your child screen-time, make it a part of their routine, don’t give it too much importance or show too much resistance as your child will definitely pick up on this. Once you’ve decided how much screen-time to give your child, set a time and stick to it. 3 PM – 4 PM every day? Great, but not a minute after!
If it’s part of a routine, with time your child won’t ask for it at odd hours. A word of advice, don’t associate screen-time with meal-time because that’s just a recipe for disaster. You don’t want to be the mom resorting to YouTube at a restaurant to make sure your kid eats three chicken nuggets. Make sure meal-time is synonymous with family time.
Decide what your child can watch
This is probably the most important aspect of screen time, as you want to make sure your child is learning. YouTube, even YouTube Kids isn’t the greatest (remember the Momo scare?). Good old Baby TV or Netflix is the way forward. Netflix has a number of educational cartoons like The Storybots and Charlie’s Colorforms City. Fan favorites like PJ Masks and Peppa Pig are also available for viewing. The best thing about Netflix? Three episodes in (approximately one hour) and it pauses itself, asking the viewer if they’re still watching. Cue turning off the TV and resuming with other activities.
Also, if you need to hand your child your phone in a pinch (don’t worry, we all do it), you can simply download the app on your phone so they can consume safe content while you do whatever it is you need to (poop, grocery shop, take a 5 minute nap?)
Decide what screens your child can consume content on
Most households today have a myriad of screens – tablets, phones, TVs and even projectors and home theaters. In my opinion and based on my experience, I’ve realized that the safest screen is actually the TV. With tablets and phones, toddlers can easily jump from video to video, app to app. Not only does this have negative effects on their attention spans, but video hopping may also result in them watching cartoons or movies that aren’t age-appropriate. With TVs, all you need to do is put on a cartoon and place the remote out of reach.
This is a given, but setting up and maintaining a routine is hard work. Some days your child will be fine with watching TV at a certain time. Other days you’ll find yourself giving in just to avoid a tantrum. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something and screen-time is over, it’s so tempting to give your child 5-10 more minutes so you can finish up your tasks (or the YouTube video you were watching on your phone). In all aspects of screen-time, from how much, to when, to even what your children are watching, consistency is key.
Limit your own screen-time
In front of your kids at least. Don’t watch TV, don’t use your phone in front of them. Even if they don’t ask for your devices, they may feel like you aren’t paying attention to them, especially if you only glance up or mumble some half-assed praise while watching Kylie Jenner’s Instagram story. It’s not the best form of validation and has serious negative effects. Think of it this way, don’t you feel like throwing your spouse’s phone out the window when they’re not paying attention to you? Yeah, it’s not fun.
Regulating screen-time doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It doesn’t have to be a constant battle with your child. Think of it this way, the more you restrain from giving your child something, the more they want it. If you give them a healthy amount of exposure to screen-time it’ll simply become a part of their day, not a highlight.
Have any tips and tricks? Drop em’ below in the comments.
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Cover image via @sairoz/Instagram