Due to the covid-19 pandemic and distance learning models, many children are incorporating more screen time into their school day. That’s why it’s is more important than ever to reduce the use of electronic the rest of the day. Without adult’s guidance, most children would spend almost all of their waking hours behind a screen. Whether they are texting on their smartphones, or they are watching videos on their laptops, their electronics use can get out of control.
Too much screen time has been linked to a few problems, including obesity, sleep problems, it interferes with social activities and family time that takes a toll on a teen’s mental health. Knowing that parents can make a difference for their children by limiting screen use, what can you do? What strategies have helped other parents implement and enforce these rules? Every child is different, and one approach may work better for one child than another. That said, we hope that at least a few of these techniques will help you set healthy limits for your child.
- Make screen time a privilege, screen time has changed dramatically in recent years, it’s often felt to be more of a right than a privilege. At first, this may be difficult but the lesson from learning to delay the gratification of screen time and control impulses will stay with your child for a long time. Also, make it clear that the privilege of screen time can be taken away at any time. Teach your teen to do homework and chores first, before he turns on the TV or plays a video game.
- Establish clear rules, motivate teens who are not mature enough to handle free reign with their electronics. Make rules that will guide your children and make good choices with cell phones, TVs, and computers. Good rules include removing screens from bedrooms and having a set time when screens can be switched on or off.
- Encourage outdoor activity, encourage your children to get some exercise, going for a walk, playing a game of catch, or even doing some gardening work can ensure your kids will get the physical activity they need. Consider family actives that are fun and easy for the kids to relate to, like going to the park or hiking trails. If in Nairobi you can take your kids to Ololua, Giraffe center, Nairobi national park, Karura Forest, National Museum, Uhuru park, and many other engaging places that are kids-friendly and educative.
- Be realistic, if your kids are addicted to watching and playing video games, start by setting smaller, more attainable goals. Instead of jumping right to the recommended one or two hours or less per day, start by cutting their current screen time in half.
- Be a good example, kids look up to their parents in everything. You can’t tell a kid to stop watching as they see you on your phone scrolling through socials. Put that phone away and listen to what your baby is trying to say or switch off that screen and help them do homework. They will understand that people can do other things besides watching and playing a video games.
With internet availability parents and guardians have so much at their disposal that they can let their children watch and encourage learning. Some of the YouTube channels that are good for children include: Akili and Me, Pucoyo channel, Cocomelon, Pancake manor, Mother Goose Club, Eli Kids, and Loo Loo Kids. There are Netflix and Showmax shows appropriate for kids. But technology is also the gateway to expose our children to things that we want to protect them from, cyberbullying, hate speech, racism, lewd images, and strangers. Thanks to developers for the few apps that can help control what our young ones can watch, these apps include net nanny, kidslox, ourpact, and set kid text monitoring app.
However, parents need to take time to have a thoughtful conversation with their kids on the risk and potential harm of addictive technology. Your child’s surrounding has a direct influence on their development and if technology is engaged with excessively, it can impact them both cognitively and socially. Also, teach your kids the importance of being responsible and doing the right thing without the supervision of anyone.