Screen time advice you can actually use

One of the biggest challenges of modern parenthood is managing our children’s screen time. It was so much easier for our parents. Sesame Street was on once a day and if you missed it you had to wait for tomorrow.

Now we have PVRs, tablets and smartphones, handheld gaming devices, video game consoles, Apple TV, Netflix, and so much more. It’s hard for us to keep on top of it all, evaluate it, and create reasonable limits. Not to mention that it’s difficult for we adults to disconnect from our own devices that make life easier in many ways.

Much has been written on this subject in an attempt to help us make sense of it all, yet it remains a huge topic of conversation when parents get together. How do you handle screen time in your house? Do you set limits? How much is too much?

One very helpful article, written by Dr. G, for the Huffington Post, offers a new perspective. The main thought here is that we can no longer think of all screen time as bad, limit it, or cut it off and be done with it. Increasingly there is important, helpful, and educational content coming at our kids via screens.

So Dr. G suggests that we need to stop counting the minutes or hours our kids spend in front of screens and start assessing the media they consume in the same way we read nutritional labels. And we need to teach them how to recognize what is healthy and not so healthy when it comes to what they are viewing on screens.

And so if we’re more focused on what kids are seeing, instead of how much, a lot of the limits around screen time become less important. But – and it’s a big but – making sure that kids are engaged in other healthy pursuits seriously decreases how much time they actually have to sit in front of screens.

Which brings us to this very practical advice from Dr. Kate, writing in the Salem News. Her approach is to structure your child’s time in a way that doesn’t leave huge gaps to be filled by screens. And a lot of parents might appreciate her suggestion for a routine that fills up the hours between the end of the school day and bedtime.

For those with infants and toddlers a good resource is the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood where you can download a free copy of Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young children, technology and early education as well as browse lots more information on this topic.

One thing is clear, we are still learning a lot about how to manage screens and the more we share with each other and keep talking, the better we’ll get at it.

Please help other parents by imparting your own experiences in the comment section below.

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