Screen time for kids — a guide for monitoring a child’s screen time


Too much “screen time” — the catchall term for time spent using devices, television and video games — can have negative effects on kids.

We have seen a great advancement in information technology that led to far reaching consequences in fields like – education, entertainment, social interaction and more. The use of screens at homes in different forms like television, tablets, and laptops is a growing phenomenon. A frequent exposure of children to screens like – smartphones, TVs, and computers is posing serious challenges concerning their growth and development.

Ever since the lockdown in India, many professionals have been working from home while raising their children. This led to a steep increase in the time spend in front of screen by children of all age groups. Medical experts gave a word of caution as excessive screen time can increase risk of obesity, sleeplessness, headache, eye strain.

The problem is not just with children. People of all age groups are developing unhealthy screen-time habits. However, you can help your family overcome digital addiction by becoming more mindful of their daily and weekly screen habits.

Screen time for kids: Healthy recommendations

When it comes to older children and teens, the key focus lies in choosing quality screen-time rather than the time limits. In other words, the screen time shouldn’t interfere with daily activities like – getting enough sleep, regular physical activities etc.

Screen time recommendations by age

Young children are more likely to watch screens all day if the parents allow them. However, it is important to set limits. Here are some recommendations provided by government of India - Under 18 months: Limit screen time to occasional video-chatting.

Small children need to interact with people to learn and develop crucial skills. Which means, they should spend more time with toys, interactive games and books, instead of screens. Occasional video chatting can only help the child maintain relation with long-distance family and friends.

18–24 months: Keep screen time limited, and always watch with your kids

If you want to introduce media to your toddler, then educational programs, including video chatting and interactive touch screens, can help them learn words, .: But, the critical factor is that they should be accompanied by an adult  to reteach the content. Also when selecting media, one should avoid fast-paced programs and apps with a lot of distracting or violent content.

2–5 years: Stay involved and keep screen time to one hour per day

Educational programs help to boost young children's cognitive, literacy and social skills from ages 2 to 5. You should limit screen time to one hour or less per day, and help your kids understand what they're watching and how it applies to their everyday lives. Many skills necessary for lifelong success are best taught through social — not digital play., So, be sure to combine playdates and outdoor free time.

6 years and older: Set reasonable limits to make sure digital screens don’t replace real-life interactions and physical activity

As your kids get older, you should help them become mindful of the media they use and the amount of time they spend consuming it. Make a family plan that defines different types of media use and consistently reduce the time your kids spend using phones, TV, and computers.

How to keep track of your child’s screen time

It’s important to keep an eye on your kids’ screen time habits from an early age and monitor how they react to media. There are noteworthy variations between passive screen time, such as watching YouTube videos or browsing websites, and other types of screen time, such as playing interactive games, communicating with friends with social media, or using devices to write, create art, or code. Here are some ways to track your kids’ media usage:

Use Norton Family Premier’s screen time features

Norton Family Premier’s time supervision feature allows you to monitor the time your kids spend on their devices, so you can help them develop healthy consumption habits. This feature also allows parents to schedule specific viewing times and set daily limits on the devices that may be taking up way too much of your kid’s attention and detract from their social and physical well-being.

Use social media tracking features

Some social media apps allow you to monitor usage and create alerts when you've hit a pre-set amount of time. Set up these features in your accounts and your kid's accounts, too. In addition, some devices have features that allow you to track your weekly screen time.

Track media use manually

Use a timer and a hand-drawn chart to track your family's media use. Your kids can fill in the details, which helps them become more mindful about the amount of time they spend using media and how they can regulate it. The downside to this approach is that it’s based on the honour system and will demand extra time to track the details.

How to limit screen time for kids

Discuss the benefits and drawbacks as a family

You should include your kids in the conversation on screen time — which allows them to clarify their doubts or give their opinions on the issue. Screen-time restriction can be treated as both a punishment and as part of a healthy lifestyle. So, you should explain the difference and talk about why screen time limits are a good idea. You can explain some of the benefits of using digital devices, such as for school research and keeping up with long-distance friends, and some of the drawbacks of excessive use, such as
developing poor health and social habits.

Create a family screen time contract

A contract that explains your family’s reasons for limiting screen time and the terms you’ve agreed to will help set clear expectations and hold all family members accountable for sticking to screen time rules.

In the contract, you can define what's considered “screen time.” For instance, using an app to track exercise or read an article is different from spending 30 minutes on Facebook. . The contract should also designate media-free time, such as - at the dinner table, while driving, and one hour before bedtime etc.  You can set media-free locations in the home, such as in bedrooms or the dining room. You can also use a reward system, where you give your kid some rewards that represent a certain amount of screen time. Kids can use them in whenever they want during the week.

Set your own screen time limits

According to a report by The Hindu Business Line, adults spend more than 11 hours per week interacting with media. Your child will likely mimic your media use, so it's important to be a good screen-time role model. Track your hours of screen time use and try to limit them. Instead, you can spend time reading, exercising, and engaging in meaningful friendships offline, and consider getting your kids involved in some of your favourite activities. When they have activities in mind, they are less likely to touch a device.

Dan Rafter
  • Dan Rafter
  • Freelance writer
Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.

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