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With screens virtually everywhere, monitoring a child’s screen time can be challenging. To make matters more complicated, some screen time can be educational and beneficial to children’s social development. So, how do you keep track of your child’s screen time?

Here’s a guide on how to manage your child’s media and screen time.

1. Develop screen time rule

The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages the usage of gadgets except for video chatting, by children younger than 18 months. When introducing digital media to children between the ages of 18 and 24 months, ensure it’s a high quality content and avoid solo media use. Limit screen time for children ages 2 to 5 to one hour per day of high-quality programmes. Parents also need to ensure quality screen time such as:

  • Preview programs, games and apps before allowing your child to view or play with them. Better yet, watch, play or use them with your child.
  • Look for interactive options that engage your child, rather than those that just require pushing and swiping or staring at the screen.
  • Use parental controls to block or filter internet content.
  • Make sure your child is close by during screen time so that you can supervise his or her activities.
  • Ask your child regularly what programs, games and apps he or she has played with during the day.
  • When watching programming with your child, discuss what you’re watching and educate your child about advertising and commercials.

2. Establish clear rules and set reasonable limits

A set of rules can help children develop a habit that will keep them from overusing social media. A reasonable limit is also important so that kids do not rebel as they grow older. Parents may consider these tips:

  • Encourage unplugged, unstructured playtime.
  • Create tech-free zones or times, such as during mealtime or one night a week.
  • Discourage the use of media for entertainment during homework.
  • Set and enforce daily or weekly screen time limits and curfews, such as no exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime.
  • Consider using apps that control the length of time a child can use a device.
  • Keep screens out of your child’s bedroom and consider requiring your children to charge their devices outside of their bedrooms at night.

3. Make them justify their gadget usage

One of the most essential things we can do as parents is to make sure that when our children use screens, they’re doing so for a purpose and not just out of habit. This method can also start a conversation about why they use screens, and it allows you to propose a different activity if your child is simply bored. They’ll appreciate our concern, and talking about what they’re doing on their gadgets now will make them more willing to come to you later to discuss online content they’re not comfortable with. At the same time, parents may explain why you’re limiting screen time. Explain to them why violent video games, TV shows and movies can be harmful, or talk with them about the dangers of internet predators. If your children understand why you’re restricting your family’s screen time, they’ll be far more likely to obey the limits you set.

Finally, no matter how smart or mature you feel your child is, keep an eye on his or her online and social media behaviour. Your child is bound to make mistakes using media. Talk to your child and help him or her learn from them. Also, set a good example. Consider that your child is watching you for cues on when it’s OK to use screens and how to use them. You’ll likely need to continue to guide, manage and monitor your child’s use of screens and media as he or she grows. But by developing household rules and revisiting them as your child grows, you can help ensure a safe experience.