For a parent, nothing eliminates the burden of entertaining your child more than handing them your smartphone.
The issues with this are all too familiar. Impaired vision and potential phone addiction come to mind, but excessive screen time can actually have much deeper, longer-lasting effects. A study by Lancet Child & Adolescent Health showed that children who spent less time using smartphones and other devices performed better on cognitive tests. In light of this, any parent should make an effort to keep their child’s screen time at a reasonable level.
Here’s how you do it.
- Don’t Start Too Young: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, for the first 18 months of their life, children should have no screen time, except for in the case of video chats with family members, according to a resource about screen time from Pathways.org. It might be tempting to give your toddler smartphone access to alleviate their boredom, but letting them watch Youtube videos or play games at such a young age can set the wrong precedent.
- Play Games With Your Child: Sometimes all it takes to keep your child away from the phone is an alternative. There are plenty of ways you can keep your child entertained without handing them a device. According to Pathways.org’s article about toddler games, blowing bubbles, setting up mini obstacle courses, chasing your child or letting them play with balloons are all simple and easy ways to give your child the adrenaline rush they need.
- Introduce Them to Other Kids: Eye contact, back-and-forth exchanges and other crucial social skills are learned through time spent with other people, according to Pathways. Many of your old friends are likely to have kids as well, so use that as a touchpoint to reconnect with them and add some new playmates to your child’s life. Make friends with other parents at their school to help catalyse friendships between their children and yours.
- Be A Great Example: As a parent, you are the most influential and trusted person in your child’s life. If you are watching TV or using your phone the majority of time you are around them, they will notice and mimic your behavior, according to Becoming Minimalist. Children get very frustrated by hypocritical parents. Everyone needs to send a text or watch Netflix sometimes, but when you do, make sure your child is looking away.
- Keep Devices Far Away: For most kids, becoming conditioned to crave screen time is a matter of access. An easy solution is denying your child their own smartphone or tablet. That way, you will have complete control over how much time they spend looking at screens. They might become jealous of other children who do have these devices, but stand your ground. In addition, place your household’s televisions and desktops in open spaces as opposed to your child’s room. According to WebMD, this will let you monitor their screen use and send the message that there’s a limit to their screen time.
Contributed by Megan Wenzl a Chicago based writer