You all know how I feel about screen time for kids… if you don’t, head OVER HERE to read about my biggest parenting failure 🙂
So when Christine Martin reached out to share her 4 tips to prevent digital damage in kids, I got really excited!
Christine is an early education expert and consultant and the author of You’ve Got This! Keys to Effective Parenting for the Early Years. Her book is an amazing resource, accompanying stressed and overwhelmed parents through this crazy parenthood journey we’re all walking.
But without further ado, let’s take a closer look at how she recommends we help our children with managing screen time!
Did you know that a screen time study published in JAMA Pediatrics found a link between excessive screen time and poor performance on development milestones at 36 and 60 months?
Other studies are unfortunately associating digital overuse with teen depression…
Here are 4 tips to manage our kids’ screen time and decrease their risk for screen-related health or developmental problems:
1- Distinguish Screen Time From Play Time
Christine recommends that we do not think of screens as a toy for our children. With play being such a fundamental learning tool for young children, we need to limit screen time and separate it from other types of play.
In doing so, our role as parents becomes to “show [our kids] the importance of setting boundaries, using their imaginations, and being active.”
2- Get Involved
Over the years, I have heard countless times how important it is for our children to hear words. That the more we speak to them, the better their communication skills and vocabulary will be.
Unfortunately, a child in front of a screen has very limited interaction with its surrounding. Christine Martin recommends engaging with our kids about on-screen activities to help increase their communication skills and teach them ho to navigate digital media.
When my daughter was 3-years old and we had just started going cold turkey on all screens, the phychiatrist who saw her and answered my concerns, said to keep her off of screens for a while. When we would be ready to re-introduce the TV, she should only be watching it with an adult so we could comment during the movie and explain to her what she was seeing. This would make TV watching a social event where we could discuss ideas and actions.
“Parents can talk with their children about the videos they watch and games they play like they would discuss characters and plotlines in a book,” Martin says. “When there is parental engagement like this, a child’s vocabulary and literacy skills develop and family communication gets stronger.”
3- Make Mealtimes Screen-Free
This is by far my favorite! And while we have abused screens when our children were young and mixed up screens for a babysitter, we have NEVER, ever, had a screen on while eating.
I am sure that this is deeply rooted in our European culture, but mealtime is made for conversations, sharing, decompressing, and interacting.
Christine Martin takes it a step further and says: “While it can be tempting to pack the iPads to have some adult conversation while you’re out to eat, doing this doesn’t teach your children about manners, properly engaging in conversation, or being mindful of other patrons.”
4- Set A Good Example
We are guilty, Christian and I, of taking our phones out to research a “quick thing” when we shouldn’t. This is the tip we personally need to do the most work on… because it will be hard for our children to disengage from screens if they see us consistently looking down at our phones or tablets.
Christine Martin reminds us that “if [children] see you spending a lot of time with your face in front of a screen, they’ll also want to use technology at the same time. Try your best to save your time on social media for your lunch break, during nap time, or after your children have gone to bed.”
I know we all agree to those tips, but our day-to-day lives have become so extremely connected that we are having a hard time leading by example and not using screens as the extra pair of hands we all wish we had.
Christine says it best: “Learning how to use screens, verbally communicate or socially interact will have a positive impact on language skills, relationships and overall health. Spending time with their parents, learning through play is what young children need and want.”