How much screen time should parents allow their children?


Screen time is something we all worry about, but we neglect it a bit in our daily routine. And, when it comes to new-age parents, things aren’t so simple. There is no ideal number of hours in a day to spend time in front of a screen. Children are exposed to screens even before they are born into this world. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand screen exposure in several ways.

THE SCREEN IS NOT A MONSTER

The most important aspect is to use the screen wisely, because not all is bad about it. Many adults perceive screen exposure as a monster and consider it capable of eating away at children’s most significant hours. However, interactive sessions based on two-way communication through screens can be a great source of learning for children.

Guidelines from the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) suggest that children aged two to six can stare at screens to watch high-quality, parent-supervised educational content for up to one hour per day (with breaks) . Parents of children under the age of two should not expose themselves directly to screens. So for these parents, the answer is probably the simplest zero screen time.

FOCUS ON QUALITY CONTENT

UNICEF’s recent report, Growing up in a connected world, states when considering digital or technologyics, more attention needs to be paid to what children do online, the content they encounter, their living environment and support networks in general. Parents need to focus on safe, content-rich screen time rather than just thinking about the amount of screen exposure.

A PRACTICAL APPROACH

Instead of worrying about “how much screen” for children’s screen exposure, a better approach for parents is to think about “how to bring self-control” and “what to watch” .

The very first way to train children in self-control is to instill the concept of digital resilience in them. Digital resilience is the basic understanding of knowing what not to watch and learning only from age-appropriate content.

Putting multiple checks and digital blocks together may provide temporary results for parents, but what will eventually help them is the investment in their children’s digital resilience. It grows through experience and guided exposure to the virtual world. It doesn’t come from avoiding the digital world.

Taking children away from the screen is not a realistic solution, and therefore parents should focus on improving children’s digital resilience through open family discussions about cyber risks.

TRY THE DIGITAL DIET

This learning about the good, the bad and the ugly begins as soon as digital exposure begins for young children; from primary school. Here, the concept of health digital scheme is a great resource for parents. In the same way that parents discuss healthy eating habits with their children, conversations about healthy digital diets are recommended before letting children into the virtual world. Here is an example of conversations that parents can use:

BUILD A DIGITAL FOOD PYRAMID

A digital food pyramid is another great tool parents can use to train kids on “what to watch for” and “how much.” Healthy digital exposure through apps for fitness and exercise, websites for basic use like mail, platforms for academic and extracurricular activities sits at the bottom of the pyramid.

These are the ones that children can consume in larger quantities (about over an hour) than the unhealthy ones. Entertainment websites, social media, mobile and video games are at the top of the pyramid and therefore should be consumed in very limited quantities (as little as possible).

Even with little exposure, parents should regularly monitor the unhealthy aspects of scanning. And, when used wisely with filtered content, the screen is a friend for life!

This article is written by Meghna Yadav, Child Psychologist and Training Manager, KLAY.

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