How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

It’s 2014 and no matter where we turn there’s a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or flashy high-def TV. It’s practically impossible to go anywhere or do anything without seeing all of this impressive technology – and it’s even harder to control how much of it our kids see. For many parents in the modern day, the question of ‘how much screen time is too much screen time’ continues to come up. Today, we’re going to take a fresh look at this issue and cover a few interesting points and some helpful ideas to help you temper the tech in your child’s life.

Tech Is Essential

When we were kids, things like books and computers were important parts of our development. While the same is true now, things have changed. Technology is playing an ever increasing role in how our children learn, so we have to keep up with the times. When our kids get into school they’ll be surrounded by laptops and other gadgets that will help deliver information at the speed of light! If they come unprepared, they could struggle in the same way that kids who have not been exposed to reading at home do when they encounter their first reading assignment in class.

Many parents shut down the idea of exposing their kids to technology, but the fact is that we have to initiate them into this new way of learning and gathering information because they are the ones who will be relying on it all the most heavily. Right now there are kids in the world who have never seen their parents use a land line phone, have been read their bedtime stories only from eReaders like Kindle, Nook, and Amazon, and who have watched their parents dial up movies on demand using online services like Netflix. We have to help empower our kids with the relevant tools they’ll be encountering in their lives so that they can be technologically literate and feel safe, comfortable, and empowered when it comes time to hit that power button!

But There’s A Catch…

While technology like cell phones, tablets, and laptops make it almost effortless for our kids to get amazing information and learn new things every day, there is such a thing as too much. Kids that become too absorbed in screen time could miss out on learning important social cues and social skills that come from taking the information they learn online and applying it to the real world.

Monitoring and limiting screen time helps kids learn how to do the research and then take what they’ve learned out into the world to apply it. Many adults and kids these days get stuck in the ‘look it up online’ part of the equation and forget to go out and do something with what they’ve learned. We’re at an important crossroads where we can help train our kids to be amazing researchers who know how to jump online and find information, instructions, directions, and ideas – then turn them into active realities in which they can participate.

Simple Ideas Go A Long Way

Here are some ways you can help your kids learn about the connection between technology and real life…

  • Let them help you look up addresses on Google Maps or similar services. Let them see the process of finding the address on the map, figuring out how to get there, and then closing the app so that you can get there for real.
  • Look up menus online in advance when you eat out. Go through the menu and let kids think about what they might want to order while you’re on the way to the restaurant.
  • Before going out for a special event like a day at the water park or zoo, visit their website and learn a few things. This is a great way to get more excited about what’s to come, and it helps teach kids a lot about doing research.
  • ProlongĀ introducing kids to social media as long as possible. Yet if parents are on Facebook, allowing kids to look at photos of the family fun: photos, videos, or news on their timeline, can maintain a good balance. It’s a great way to help them remember family members and friends they may not see very often, and it’s a great way to help cultivate healthy social media boundaries from a young age.
  • If your child has a savings account, help them log in to the bank’s app or website monthly to look at their ledger online.
  • When choosing a movie, let your kids actively participate in scrolling through the kid-friendly sections and clicking ‘play’.
  • If you let your child use your phone, tablet, or laptop, also involve them in things like cleaning the screen, learning how to check the battery levels, plugging in and charging up, and placing the tech in protective bags or cases.
  • Of course, if you’re open to educational screen time, apps like Hooked On Phonics, can be great tools to reiterate what they are learning.

Screen time can be a deeply empowering and enriching experience for kids that helps prepare them for the fast-paced, tech-driven world they’ll grow up to participate in. When tech is limited to occasional entertainment with a focus on research and learning, kids learn not to become dependent on it and instead use it as a tool that helps make their daily active lives easier and more engaging.

What techy toys does your child like most? How do you limit or monitor the time they spend online or on screen?

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