A Child’s Relationship with Screens: Exploring Parent Concerns about Children’s Screen Time As electronic usage and access to screens has become commonplace for most families, it is inevitable that children will have a relationship with screens. Similar to other types of relationships, healthy and unhealthy interactions exist and sometimes the difference between the two is a fine line. As a result, this blog aims to serve as a starting place for parents asking questions that include concerns about setting limits on the amount of screen time children experience, exploring a few pitfalls of screen usage, establishing boundaries for usage of appropriate media sources, and the practical application of creating safety protocols on electronic devices. All screen time is not created equal. Effective screen time management often takes into consideration the purpose of the screen usage along with the content. It is also important to remember that screen usage within an appropriate context can be necessary and valuable. As a result, it can be helpful to briefly examine the typical reasons a child has screen time.
Setting Limits: Once parents have examined what categories their child’s screen time usage fits into, this information can be utilized to help determine if specific limits are needed. It is important to remember that each child can have different needs and capacities for screen time based on age and personality. As a result, choosing an inclusive screen time limit of an exact time (e.g. 2hrs a day total) for all members in the family does not accurately acknowledge the complexity of screen time management. Instead, it can be helpful for parents to consider which categories each child may need limits in. For example, using screens for entertainment for a designated time frame can be one way for parents to encourage children to have other hobbies and enjoyable activities. Recognizing that screens may be used more for educational and socializing purposes due to the current pandemic may also allow parents to tailor screen time limits on a situational basis. Pitfalls of screen usage:
Appropriate Boundaries: As with most aspects of parenting, it is necessary to have healthy screen time boundaries in place for children. A parent’s relationship with their child can be key for transferring healthy boundaries into the context of screen time. Monitoring and restricting the content children view can be extremely important for establishing and teaching media boundaries to kids. A parent’s relationship with screens can also be an influencing factor on their child’s relationship to screens. For example, a child competing with screens for their parents’ attention will receive the internal message that media content is valuable and possibly even more valuable than the child if they are repeatedly ignored in preference of the screen. Content boundaries are also necessary for children and can often be established through parental safety controls. Safety Protocols: Due to past problems with inappropriate content viewing and easily purchasable material, many devices and service providers have safety protocols that parents can enable to prevent children from viewing specific content or making unauthorized purchases. Below are a few links to resources listing steps to put safety protocols and parent controls on devices. Another way to find built in parent controls and safety features is to search the type of device online or in YouTube for instructions on how to set up a variety of security features. Additionally, use strong passwords that your child does not know and avoid saving the passwords directly in programs. Apple Devices: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304 Android Devices:
~Tasha Lehner MA