Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Oct. 16, 2013

Balancing Your Screen Time

Blogger, Internet Keep Safe Coalition

I once saw a photograph of my friend lounging in a chair with a MacBook on her lap, an iPad in one hand, texting on her iPhone with the other, all while listening to music on her iPod. Aside from being a picture-perfect promotion for Apple, this photo is indicative of what has quickly become the norm in youth culture—constant interaction with technology.

I’d be willing to bet that most parents are familiar with this scenario and at one time or another have asked themselves, “Is all this technology good for my child?”

The answer is, Yes, it can be if there is balance.

Having grown up in a world driven by technology, today’s youth are digital natives. As technology has become so universal and is used largely as a tool for socializing, it is no wonder that teens connect emotionally with their devices. Through technology use, many teens express creativity, interact with friends, and educate themselves on new topics. These are all good things, right? Again, the key to success in the digital environment is balance.

Balancing Screen Time is the first pillar in the BEaPRO™ index (Balance, Ethics, Privacy, Reputation, Relationships, and Online Privacy). This index was developed to help youth become responsible digital citizens and ensure that their digital interactions are positive.

As a parent, what should you do to help your child balance real life with screen time? First, recognize that a healthy interaction with technology is beneficial for your child. So, don’t just go throwing out the baby with the bath water. Simply confiscating your child’s technology because it’s ‘too much’ would be akin to you throwing my microwave out the window, and then justifying it by arguing that my great-grandpa cooked over a fire. Even if such frequent interaction with technology personally feels a bit foreign, it can be positive for your child. The truth is technology is here for the long haul—that’s why it’s so important to balance time on and off the screen.

Spending too much time with technology can affect sleeping habits, lead to gaming and social media addictions, and interfere with personal interactions. Spending all day in front of a screen can also affect emotional development and spur feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability and social phobias.

So how much is too much? The National Institutes of Health recommend that children under age 2 should have no screen time. For children over 2, screen time should be limited to 1-2 hours a day.

Remember, balance. When deciding with your child how to best spend their time on and off the screen, be sure to consider that not all screen time is equal. An app that teaches your toddler how to spell is not equivalent to a graphic video game. Optimize positive screen time by helping your child choose productive activities.

In taking steps toward balancing time on the screen vs. time off the screen, you may consider these options:

  • Removing televisions or computers from your child’s room
  • Not allowing mobile devices at the dinner table
  • Suggest alternative activities like a board game or going to a park
  • Determine an appropriate schedule for watching T.V. and spending time online
  • And perhaps most importantly, be a good role model. Show your child a good example of balancing screen time

You can learn more about Balancing Screen Time with iKeepSafe’s BEaPROTM Parent app and by visiting iKeepSafe.org/BEaPROParent

Cover image courtesy of Flickr