I overheard these two dads talking about their children. And one says, “I think our sons are the same age. But I can see that yours is much taller than mine. He’s growing so fast. Is it down to some special diet or exercise ? What’s your secret?” The second answered, “No secrets. I just set up the computer monitor an inch higher every month”.
Kids and their gadgets
It sounds like a joke, but these days kids really do spend more and more time with their computers or iPhones, playing games and surfing the Internet. It is possible to choose high quality content and even to boost the quality of tv, movies and apps by engaging with them together. Even so, an excess of time in front of screens can easily develop into a bad habit. And soon you find that your child is not so careful about what he or she is watching as you’d like them to be. So it is not a surprise if you, like many parents, are concerned about how much time your children spend watching TV or playing video games.
Some form of screen time rules, parental control or monitoring has become a modern day necessity. Of course, you could use the ultimate form of parental control by turning the computer off or taking the mobile gadget away from your child. This doesn’t usually go down well though and even if your children accept such an approach, it’s not always practical.
Setting screen time rules
We have a few simple screen time rules which help us to get all the benefits of iPads and iPhones for our boys while protecting them from uncontrolled exposure. Perhaps they can help you too:
1. We don’t allow TV in the background. If the TV set is on, but you’re not watching it, most likely it will attract the attention of your child. So if we’re not watching a specific show, we just turn the TV set off.
2. We try not to use screen time as a reward to encourage a child for well done homework or doing some household chores. This is true for any type of screen time, (whether it’s TV, computer, game console or tablet).
3. We try to provide other forms of entertainment for our family time. Instead of relying on the TV or computer as our main source of entertainment, we try to help our child find other ways to spend their free time. You may discover that some classic forms of entertainment, such as reading, sports or board games can hold a lot of interest for your child.
4. No eating in front of the TV set or computer screen. Popcorn on a movie night is one thing, but regularly eating or snacking in front of the TV or computer is quite another. It artificially increases time in front of screens and promotes habits which can lead towards obesity.
5. We use a parental control app. Especially if you notice that mobile phones or tablets have become a source of tension in your family, an app blocker for Android or iOS can help block games or social media apps for a while and prevent unauthorised use. Even if the question of screen time is solved by other means, good parental control apps offer content filters and other child protection measures too.
6. The most important thing we can do as parents is to set a good example. Of course, this is also the hardest rule to be consistent with. So don’t beat yourself up when you slip. But if you can be a good role model and control your own screen time too, the impact on your kids can be considerable.