There seems to be a recent trend in the world of parenting advice where experts are berating parents about how much screen time kids are getting. Take this article, recently published by Time, for example. Of course there’s no question that plenty of children spend too much time in front of a screen that’s acting as a babysitter. However, I would like to make a point to present the opposite side of the argument: screen time isn’t evil. It can, in fact, be good for kids as long as a certain balance is maintained.
The Pros and Cons of Electronic Devices
First, let’s look at some statistics for both sides of the discussion. According to Project Tomorrow, nearly a third of middle and high school students are using school-issued mobile devices, such as tablets, to do their schoolwork. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids and teens engage in less than two hours of “entertainment media” per day. Setting limits for children is extremely important and develops good habits for later in life.
Kids Rely on Electronics for More Than Just Entertainment
In this ever increasingly digital world, it’s really not a bad idea to teach kids how to handle electronics and computers from a young age. Twenty years ago, kids could probably survive until college before they ever truly needed to use a computer. Today, Kindergarteners are taking assessment tests on computers and probably need to learn how to type before middle school. It’s a world of difference.
Increasingly More Adults Use Internet-Connected Devices For Work
Sixty-two percent of Americans use the Internet daily for their jobs and that number is only growing. As parents, we should spend time with our children teaching them both the dangers and the advantages of the internet and electronic media since these are tools they may use for the duration of their lives. As with most things, if children aren’t learning these skills from their parents, they’re going to learn from someone else– usually their peers, and that’s dangerous.
Teach Safe Habits First
The first step to maintaining a balance in your child’s daily device usage is to teach them how to be safe. Discuss dangers your child should watch out for while using the internet. Talk about digital threats across different platforms (never click on a link in a message or email from someone you don’t know, don’t click on pop-up ads). Then remind your child that any behavior that isn’t acceptable in the real world, isn’t okay online either.
Be in Control of What Your Child Can Access
Furthermore, all homes with internet access should have parental controls installed and configured based on the child’s level of internet comprehension. For younger children, web browser based controls should be sufficient. However, kids old enough to understand how to navigate the internet may require computer-software controls if they have figured out how to get around the browser-specific restrictions. If your child is one of the fifty-six percent of kids aged 8 to 12 with a cell phone, it may be necessary to establish parental controls on their phone as well.
The Problem is Parents, Not Kids
The New York Times reported that twenty percent of American adults never use the internet in any form. So, what are the odds that an even larger number of parents don’t understand the parental controls that are available to help protect their children? Whether you’re an internet user or not, teach your kids about both the good and the bad. Take time to learn about the dangers posed to your children, and most importantly, lead by example. Many of the same rules that apply to daily life to protect your children should also apply to kids when they are on-line.
Remember, kids follow their parents’ lead. If they see you using your phone 24/7, they’ll repeat the habit. So, don’t inflict screen restrictions that you aren’t willing to adhere to– it will only spur rebellion. Sit down as a family and talk about limits and healthy device usage for everyone. Because what works for one family may not be right for yours. In the end, only you know what’s best for your family.
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