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Parents and children in many homes are at odds over gadgets, screen time, and access to digital media. Parents are in a difficult position since, on the one hand, they must restrict their children’s time spent using technology and their exposure to adult material. On the other hand, they are likely to want to assist their adolescent or preteen in learning to do this on their own.
There are several telltale signs that your kid is ready to use their own phone, tablet, or other gadget without as many (or any) parental controls or limits. We’ll look at why parental technology limitations are important, how to establish digital rules that kids will obey (and maybe enjoy), and when kids will be able to control their own technology usage.
Why Is Parental Surveillance Important?
Excessive screen time may be problematic for a variety of reasons. For one thing, spending a lot of time on technology inherently reduces the amount of time available for other pursuits. When so much of the day is spent in front of a screen, research demonstrates how difficult it may be for youngsters to find time for other activities such as sports, crafts, reading, schoolwork, socializing, or family time.
Increased screen usage has also been linked to negative effects on mental and physical health, such as obesity, poor sleep, behavioral disorders, and decreased physical activity, according to research.
There is also a definite link between high levels of technology usage and mental health disorders including depression, according to studies.
Developing sensible technological habits has become a near-universal difficulty, especially since screen time has increased considerably over the last two decades. Parental monitoring is typically accepted, if unwillingly, by young children; they almost always need adult assistance to use applications and websites. However, many teenagers and tweens believe they are mature enough to regulate their own screen usage, despite the fact that this is not the case.
This conflict may get complicated since, at some time, parents will want their children to be capable of making these choices for themselves, according to a New york-based child and family therapist and child development expert. This varies per child and family, leaving many parents unsure about whether and how to begin teaching their children how to regulate their own digital usage.
What Are Parental Controls and How Do They Work?
Parental controls are software that allows parents to establish boundaries for their children’s use of gadgets, applications, media, and other resources. Parental controls may restrict how much time a kid spends on a device as well as what kind of material they can consume while on it.
Parental controls may be implemented in a variety of ways. Most devices feature parental control options in their settings, allowing parents to ban particular kinds of information (including potentially unsuitable websites) or put time limits on the device or the apps installed on it.
There are also a variety of parental control applications or other solutions that parents may use to limit or monitor their children’s access to gadgets or apps. Many phones, for example, enable you to set time limitations on how late you may use particular applications or text messages.
Other forms of parental control are more low-tech. When the timer runs out, some parents switch off the Wi-Fi at home or just take the gadget away from their kid. After screen time, some parents opt to analyze their kid’s search history, check their text messages on a regular basis, or sit with their child as they use a gadget to keep a watch on what they are doing online.
It’s crucial to assess the benefits and drawbacks of implementing parental restrictions. Consider your family’s circumstances and goals, as well as your child’s specific requirements and development, before devising a strategy for establishing screen time limitations.
How to Set Appropriate Boundaries
Managing children’s technology usage comes down to three basic issues: how much time they are allowed to spend on their devices each day, what material they are allowed to consume when on their devices, and who has control of their gadgets while they are not in use.
These judgments should be founded on your own beliefs as well as the unique circumstances of your family. Consider your child’s developmental requirements, personality, and temperament, as well as practical considerations such as children living in two homes or the need to communicate with you when you’re not together.
Screen Time Recommendations. Healthy screen time for kids
Before you think about how (and when) to assist your kid manage their own technology usage, consider how much time you want them to spend on their gadgets. Again, proper limits may vary depending on the family and the child, but experts recommend significantly less screen time than most children get.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children have no screen usage until they are 18 to 24 months old, with the exception of video conversations with loved ones. Children aged 2 and above should be exposed to no more than 1 hour of high-quality television. Recognizing that older children will use technology at school, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents ensure that their school-aged children receive at least one hour of physical exercise and screen breaks each day.
It’s a hefty task that not every family can fulfill. Many toddlers and primary school students use screens for two to three hours every day. 6 Studies demonstrate that normal daily use among middle and high school children increases, while parental oversight diminishes. 7 Teenagers spend upwards of nine hours per day watching or using screens, while children aged 8 to 12 spend an average of four to six hours per day watching or using screens.
This tendency is exacerbated by the dramatic rise in media consumption that most youngsters experienced during the coronavirus outbreak. Many families may have developed a habit of using technology as a result of their greater access to it. 9
Limiting Your Screen Time
Controlling the use of technology by children requires a lot of practice. That kids should not be left alone with their gadgets until they are in their early teens, and that they should be supervised while doing so. Even yet, it is strongly advised that parents keep their children socially and physically active, as well as continuing to build communication skills, trust, and openness so that children do not just depend on their gadgets for social interactions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that each family develop an individualized media usage strategy that considers their children’s needs and circumstances. The objective is to devise a strategy for making media usage helpful to the family in ways that do not interfere with other living activities such as sleep, food, physical exercise, learning, leisure, and social activities, as well as quality family time.
Including your children in the planning process might be beneficial. Parents must establish clear lines of contact with their children. Parents may progressively assist youngsters learn to moderate and restrict their use of electronics on their own as they become older, by teaching them to manage their time and divide it wisely among all of their activities and duties.
Restricting Access to Content
Because violent, hateful, or inappropriate information is freely accessible, great care is dedicated to ensuring that children only view and utilize suitable digital material.
Younger children (elementary school age and younger) clearly need the most monitoring, while the degree of parental control required for tweens and adolescents is less evident. In general, the older the kid becomes, the more likely they will be permitted to self-regulate their screen time and content. Even older teenagers, on the other hand, might struggle to keep their digital use in control.
Young teenagers, ages 13 and higher, have greater control over the sorts of information they consume. Nonetheless, be conscious of what they’re looking at. Step in to prevent them from being exposed to anything you consider to be improper or dangerous.
Devices under Physical Control
Physical access to devices must also be considered. Out of sight, out of mind, and many youngsters find it difficult to resist the urge to use a gadget that is right in front of them.
Families might have a lot of different rules when it comes to how they utilize technology. Some parents allow their children to maintain physical custody of their phones, tablets, laptops, gaming equipment, televisions, and other electronic gadgets at all times. In some households, the devices are taken at a certain time of day or under specific conditions.
Most experts believe that it is critical for children to relinquish physical control of their gadgets at night and during the hours when they should be sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against allowing children to have any electronic devices in their bedroom when they are supposed to be sleeping.
There are no televisions, video gaming systems, laptops or phones allowed in bedrooms.
How Can You Assist Your Child with Self-Regulation? There are a variety of approaches for youngsters to learn how to regulate their own screen time and material access.
Together, make rules.
To promote buy-in from your tween or adolescent, one successful technique is to develop media-use guidelines together. Also, come up with a list of repercussions for breaking the screen time guidelines. Involving your kid in the creation of your family’s technology standards can help them understand why the rules were created and ensure that they are aware of your expectations.
Parents should work on creating a strong foundation of communication skills, support, and trust between themselves and their children throughout childhood so that when they are ready to be on their own, they may utilize it as a basis to become productive, responsible, and well-regulated adults.
Consequences must be followed through on.
Consequences for not adhering to technology-use limitations are also essential for your youngster to obey the guidelines. If they know you’ll let them get away with using their gadgets for longer than agreed (or doing activities online that aren’t permitted), they’ll be less likely to obey the rules. Similarly, if you want to urge your kid to control their own behavior, they must understand that you are serious about enforcing the rules if they violate them.
How much screen time is healthy for children?
Set Aside Time for Screen Use on a Regular Basis
Allow your youngster to use their gadgets for a period of time. They may be better able to restrict their usage at other times if they know they will have a large chunk of time each day.
Allow up to 3 hours of video game time each day (if feasible), with games not being played for more than 45 minutes in a row. After 45 minutes, the youngster should do something active that does not include technology for 30 to 45 minutes. Allowing children to take frequent breaks may help kids develop the capacity to step away from the computer—and guarantee that they are doing something other than surfing the web.
Self-Control as a Model
Parents should also set a good example for their children when it comes to phone and technology use. If you don’t want your youngster to be constantly texting or browsing, you shouldn’t be either. Using phones while dining or participating in social events is also frowned upon.
Reward those who use their screens in a positive way.
Give your kid praise when they do a good job of restricting their personal device use. Encourage them even more by promising a prize, such as a family excursion or increased technological rights, if they limit their screen time and other internet activities.
Discourse on the Importance of Limits
It is critical to discuss computer usage with youngsters on a frequent basis. Explain that, although it’s entertaining and you can learn a lot from the internet, too much screen time is harmful to children and adults alike. You may cite studies that suggest youngsters who spend too much time on screens have greater behavioral and emotional difficulties and engage in less physical exercise.
When You Have Suspicions about Unhealthy Online Behavior
If you detect (or assume) warning signals that your kid could benefit from parental restrictions for a little longer, you may need to dial down technology usage freedoms. The following are some of them:
• You believe your kid is pushing you away or seeking out negative role models on the internet.
• You’ve seen a shift in your child’s demeanor, vocabulary, or tone.
• Your youngster has difficulty separating himself or herself from his or her technological devices.
• Your youngster is disobeying your rules about digital usage.
• Your kid prefers screen time over most other activities, such as physical exercise, socializing, or spending time with his or her family.
• Your youngster is squeezing in additional screen time (or watching questionable stuff)
Parents should be aware of any drastic changes in their children’s behavior, investigate the information they seek to learn more about it, speak to them about it, separate facts from fiction, describe the difference between being influenced and being inspired, and, if necessary, tighten their limitations.
To combat the temptations of too much screen time, we recommend developing a family structure with stable routines, a healthy lifestyle, shared activities, and enough of monitoring. Parents may depend on digital parental control technologies, such as timers, to turn children’s gadgets off automatically at a set time of day or night, if and when required.