How to moderate screen time for your child
Created by Kiran Tevtiya Updated on Jan 05, 2021
Why is it important to moderate a child’s screen time
Let’s begin by understanding why it is important to moderate the screen time for a child. Like the way we moderate everything else for a child including junk food, polluted air outside, entertainment time and so similarly, controlling screen time for children is also important. Screen Moderation can be started at any time or age of the child. This Blog by our Experts shall help you understand age appropriate screen usage, guidelines for screen time for toddlers, effective rules to moderate screen time for a child, tips for gadget moderation and tips to ensure eye health for children.
The starting point for a parent to start with moderation of screen time is by having some rules at home.As a parent, you don't have to think that, oh, i didn't do it earlier, so i would let my child have a field day with the devices whenever the child wants it. It’s never too late to start screen moderation, so any time when you think that it’s damaging or it's having an adverse impact on your child, you should start with gadget moderation. Starting with some rules is a good start.
5 Effective Rules For Parents to set up for Screen Moderation
1. Wake up rituals can’t have gadgets
A child shouldn't wake up to the gadget as the first thing in the morning. Make a rule that when your child gets up, s/he either does a morning jog, or a physical exercise or spends time with the family or morning hour is for studying or doing one’s chores.
2. Meal time is gadget-free time
You know that your child is over using the gadget when you notice that whenever your child has some time on their hands, s/he wants to use the gadget. One such common sight is when the child is eating each meal with the gadget. Make a rule that the dining area and meal time is gadget-free zone. Even if it is just 10 minutes or half an hour, it makes for family time, when the entire family eats together as it also builds a connecting time for the family who are busy with their own thing through the day. So eating time should be gadget free.
3. Evening is for play time in the Outdoors
Some of the condominiums and societies are now starting to allow a little bit of outdoor time for children to play. Since children have spent more time on the screen during the lockdown, it is possible for them to have formed a comfort zone and so they may choose to stay back at home with the gadgets even in the evening. This is not healthy and I would suggest encouraging your child to step out and play in the evening in the outdoors. Start with whatever time is possible in the beginning and with time, it shall improve. In case your child is not going down, please don’t yell nor give any kind of corporal punishment to your child. Just put it as a gadget free time so that the child understands and finds the encouragement to go down and play or just socialise with friends. In case your child has nothing else to do at home, even then, make sure that evening is a gadget free time and encourage your child to step out in the outdoors.
4. No Screen till 1 hour before Sleep time
Keep sleep time as the gadget free zone. Do share with your child how it’s important to not look at a screen at least one hour before sleep time for a quality sound sleep. Do help your child to understand that it’s alright to want to be in a relaxed mood, but how it's quite unsettling for their mind, if they are on a very high pace entertainment on the screen thinking that this is going to be relaxing them, when it does just the opposite, it unsettles the mind.
5. Pre-agreeing on the duration of Screen Time for one stretch
You may have to put in some checks and balances for screen time at a stretch. You can put an auto off for the gadget after every 20-30 minutes, especially for the video games. Most of the devices would let you set up a cut off where the device switches off and then you can ask the child to move on to choosing something else to do in their free time. Also, please sit with your child and sensitize that it's not necessary that every time your child has to do something in free time. It’s OK to not do anything and have a relaxed time once in a while. Explain your child how their eyes need rest like their brain needs rest and so do other muscles. Children understand well when you are talking to them with logical reasons and figuratively. Just tell your child that you need to give your eyes some rest as well like other muscles and then later on just follow through the rule. Do give it two to three weeks of time and you need to be a little patient on this with your child.
Screen time recommendations by child’s age
As per WHO guidelines, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) for a 1 year old is not recommended. For children of 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour. Less is better.
For 3 to 4 years-old children, Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour. Less is better.
A child between 4 to 7 years of age should ideally have no more than 45 minutes of screen time in one go, and no more than 2 hrs of screen time in a day.
Tips for Gadget moderation for Parents of 4 to 7-years-old child
1. Keep screen to the minimum time
2. Choose physical interactions over virtual
3. Encourage Books over screens
4. Getting bored is OK for a child
5. Bedtime stories are a great way to inculcate reading in your child
One important aspect to remember is that you don't need to be competing with other children who are on the screen for various online classes in these early years, and that you don’t think that your child may be left behind just because they didn’t get on the screen at 4 years like some other child.
A child between 7 to 11 years of age should ideally have no more than 1 hour of screen time in one go, and no more than 4 hrs of screen time in a day.
Tips for Gadget moderation for Parents of 7-11-years-old child
1. Choose a place in the open area of the house where your child uses the gadget
2. Cowatching is good
3. Stay Calm while dealing with the child
4. Be conscious of your child's self esteem
5. Create rules of the game for your child
One important area, which you may miss at times, is to understand your real worry about your child’s screen usage rather than making the screen itself your worry. It’s important to understand that your child may be learning from the screen and not all about the screen usage is necessarily bad. So, do reflect and be cognizant about your real issue with your child’s screen usage. It could be the duration, or what your child watches on the screen or could be that the screen is taking away your child’s outdoor and interpersonal or socializing time with their friends. Once you are clear about the real issue, you can then talk about it with your child in a calm and patient manner.
Don’ts when moderating screen time for your child
These are some important not-to-dos while moderating your child’s screen usage.
1. Don't give any corporal punishment
2. Don't snatch the device away on the spur off the moment
3. Don't react - avoid knee jerk reaction - Don't get sarcastic or demeaning to the child
4. Don’t use Screen time as an incentive or reward to get the child to do something
Tips for Eye Health from Pediatric Ophthalmologist
Long duration of screen usage can affect a child’s eye health. Here are a few tips from Dr Deepak Garg, a Pediatric Ophthalmologist from the Parentune Expert panel.
1. Using larger size screens for online classes or longer duration screen exposure is better than using a smaller size screen
2. Ask your child to blink in regular intervals, as that reduces the strain on your child’s eyes
3. Your child could look away from the screen for 30-60 seconds every 5 minutes and could look at a far object. This reduces the strain on your child’s eyes
4. Longer duration of screen usage can lead to dryness in the eyes, which may further lead to itching in the eyes. If your child complains of such itching, don’t take it lightly, instead please use the pediatric eye drops available in the market.
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