4 Steps to Managing Your Child's Screen Time

After spending a recent weekend with my 13 year old niece, the one image I cannot get out of my mind is her constantly texting, face timing friends on her laptop or sometimes both simultaneously. I wondered if her eyes would get tired from staring at the screen or if her fingers would cramp up from texting. Many of us can recall our days spent playing outside with friends, riding bikes, playing hopscotch, or dodge ball. Now, though, it seems that most kids prefer to lead a wired existence, constantly connected to some electronic device. Many parents are exasperated by their child's constant technology use and the degree to which tablets, TVs, video games, laptops and smart phones have taken over their household. Many parents are fed up and looking to take back control.

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Here are 4 steps you can take to manage or limit your child's use of technology so that it works for you and your family.

Step 1: Know the Risks that Come with Screen Time

"How much screen time is too much?" There really is no formula to determine this. When deciding what is appropriate and in what quantities, consider the potential risks as well as your child's ability to recognize and avoid dangerous situations.

Along with possible exposure to inappropriate content comes the risk of your child overexposing him or herself. For example, sharing too much information about where they live, where they go to school, or sharing revealing photos of themselves with others. Children and teens often have a difficult time seeing the potential harm in this and find it hard to believe that others would target or hurt them. They feel invincible, thinking "that will never happen to me."

Step 2: Know Your Goals So You Can Set Rules

Your child's screen time and use of technology should match up with your goals as a parent.

How much time do you think is reasonable for your child to use technology each day?

What types of content you will allow your child to view or interact with?

Step 3: Decide What Comes Before Screen Time

The maturity level of your child: Before authorizing more screen time, consider your child's maturity level. Ideally, as your child ages, he or she will be able to have more and more autonomy to self-manage. However, this is not always the case. If your teen is very immature, irresponsible, or struggles with self-discipline, more limits might be appropriate. The bottom line is that you know your child best and what he or she is capable of handling. Gradually add more freedom as children become better able to self-manage.

Step 4: Know Your Options and Use Them

As a parent, you are in control of the technology in your home, even if you don't feel like you are.

Passcodes and passwords: Many devices can be set to require a password or numeric code in order to allow access. Steer clear of familiar numbers such as phone numbers, dates of birth, or other number combinations or words your child might guess.

Parental controls: Video game consoles come equipped with parental controls built in via the system menu. Using these controls allows you to restrict internet access, purchasing ability and games with restricted ratings.

Facebook privacy/security settings: Facebook's security and privacy settings can prevent your child from showing up in public search results, prevent people from posting on his or her page, restrict who can send friend requests, and much more.

Cellular services: Cellular providers also offer affordable monthly apps and subscriptions that enable you to track and limit your child's usage, activity, and contacts.

Disabling the device: Your child won't hand over the game controller? No problem. When you have the opportunity to do so without a confrontation, you might find it useful to remove the power cord, the cable cord, or disable your wireless router. With my cable service, I have a hub that controls everything, and if I unplug the hub, all services are kaput.

One of the most frustrating and challenging experiences for parents is trying to manage the behavior of a child who seems incapable or completely unwilling to follow rules, cooperate with adults, or accept any sort of discipline or structure. I have facilitated countless sessions with kids who disagree with their parents whether the issue is communication, discipline, safety, conflict, or developing independence. If your child is struggling with any issue big or small we are here to help. Please feel free to contact us at (804) 743-0960 or familyguidancecenters.com.