Screen Time Resources for Parents

Discover helpful resources to manage your family's screen time.

Are you struggling to manage your family's screen time? Screens are a constant part of daily life and it’s important to set guidelines to keep screen time at healthy levels. But how do we know how much time spent on smartphones, tablets, or other screens is too much?

"The AAP reinforces its existing recommendations on limiting cell phone use for children and teenagers. The AAP also reminds parents that cell phones are not toys and are not recommended for infants and toddlers to play with.” – American Academy of Pediatrics

Facts About Screen Time

  • "By their teens, kids spend nearly 7 hours a day using screened-based media, watching TV, playing video games, and using social media; this doesn't include additional time spent using screens at school or for homework.” - Healthy Children
  • “Adolescents and young people are the most connected generation and that children under 18 represent 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide.” - UNICEF
  • "72% of teens say they often or sometimes check for messages or notifications as soon as they wake up." - PEW Research Center

Screen Time Recommendations by Age

The American Academy of Pediatrics defines screen time as any time spent using digital media for entertainment, and recommends the following screen time guidelines for children:

  • For children 18 months to 24 months Parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children.
  • For children 2 to 5 Limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming
  • For children 6 and up Establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media.

How Screen Time Affects Children’s Brains

Technology has become an important aspect of how kids interact with the world around them. However, smartphones can also have physical effects on health including inhibiting sleep and information recall. Below, we explore the ways smartphone use can impact your child’s development.

  • Distraction Media multitasking and hyper-connectivity makes it harder for kids to focus on one thing, whether it’s a conversation with friends, dinner with the family or homework.
  • The Google Effect Because information is so easy to find, we are more likely to remember the source than the actual information, which is referred to as “the Google Effect,” and also known as digital amnesia.
  • Compulsion Loops When video game players achieve small goals, like winning a level, their brain gives a burst of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. Players also receive dopamine when they reach new levels or gain power-ups and together these form a compulsion loop that compels users to continue playing.
  • Blue Light Blue light from screens can affect your sleep cycle and quality of sleep because blue light delays the release of melatonin, a hormone that is linked to the sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.

Signs of Technology Addiction

According to Pew Research Center, 92% of teens go online every day. As parents, we’ve likely had discussions with our teens regarding addiction to drugs or alcohol. But how many of us have had the conversations with our teens about addiction to technology? How many of us, as parents, may even struggle with a similar addiction?

The more time teens spend connecting with their screens, the less time they’re connecting with real life relationships, deepening their communication and empathy. And, according to a study by Common Sense Media, 50% of teens feel addicted to their devices. Some signs of tech addiction include:

  • Excessive use of devices
  • Emotional or physical difficulty being away from their devices
  • Relationship problems because of an overabundance of use

4 Steps to Overcoming Tech Addiction

Technology is an ever-present, and often useful, part of your teen’s life, and ultimately, it’s unrealistic to expect them to completely eliminate their tech use. So, the question remains: how do you help your teen strike a healthier balance?

  1. Set an Example  If you’re concerned by the amount of time your kids spend online, then try evaluating your own digital habits. Increased awareness of everyone’s screen time, including your own, will be beneficial for your family dynamics.  
  2. Engage Your Teen in Conversation Attempt to combat the effects of overexposure to technology by engaging your kids in thoughtful conversation. Ask what they’re reading online or listening to and translate it to a real-life interaction. Learning little insights will keep you in tune with what’s going on in their lives and will strengthen your family’s overall communication.  
  3. Establish Boundaries Remember, your teen’s brain is still developing and setting limits for themselves may be something they struggle with. Establish “no technology zones” in the house for example at dinnertime, between the hours of 4-6 pm, or for an hour before bed.  
  4. Educate and Understand Help your teen understand the risks and potential harm that overexposure to technology can have. Their environment influences their development and if our teen’s environment is primarily technology driven, it can impact them both cognitively and socially.

The Benefits of Screen Time

There are many articles out there that discuss the detrimental effects of excessive screen time, especially in early developmental years, but screen time also has benefits including educational, social and creative impacts.

  • Educational Many apps and online games include educational components encouraging further development of reading and math skills.
  • Social The social benefits of screen time include building language and comprehension skills, which is particularly beneficial for kids with developmental delays or behavioral issues.
  • Creative Children can be exposed to a variety of creative outlets through technology, through photo, video, and gaming apps.

How to Balance Screen Time for Your Family

  1. Create a Family Media Contract By using a Family Media Contract, you can set clear rules for your family’s screen time use and teach your kids digital responsibility and accountability.  
  2. Designate Media-Free Family Time Unplugging as a family can help strengthen your communication and keep you in tune with what’s going on in your children’s lives. Dinner time is a great place to start and all family members need to place phones out of reach - including Mom and Dad.  
  3. Identify Screen-Free Zones For example, designate the dining room, bathrooms, and bedrooms as rooms in the home where media is not permitted. This will help your family not only target their screen time use in public locations, reducing the possibility of risky behavior, but will also allow your family detox areas away from technology.  
  4. Create a Screen Time Reward System Institute a system in which screen time is earned by requiring 30 minutes of reading or an unplugged family activity in exchange for 30 minutes of screen time. Another option is swapping 15 minutes using an educational app in exchange for 15 minutes of an entertainment app, video game or social media.  
  5. Learn Together We encourage you to join forces with your child and learn together by discovering which apps and games are popular, fun or helpful to use as a family. This will not only increase your own knowledge base but will give you something to bond over with your kids. For information about which apps are safe for your kids to use, access our App Advisor.

Want a printable version of this information?

Download our Screen Time Guide for Parents.

Resource: Screen Time Guide Min

Type: pdf

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