How much screen time is too much is an ongoing debate in parenting circles. As of October, the American Academy of Pediatrics discouraged any screen time for children younger than 2 and recommended no more than two hours of screen time for kids older than 2. Additionally, a recent explosive article in the New York Post identified various neuroscientists and researchers who cited that images of children’s brains, while digitally engaged, mirror the effects of what cocaine does to the brain. Our kids are becoming addicted to screen time, and one of the most well-known ways to combat addiction is to detox.
But how doable is a complete detox in an age when tablets are now commonplace in schools and central to entertainment? Common Sense Media found in 2015 that many 8-12-year-olds can spend six hours a day on digital media, while some teenagers can be in front of screens for nine hours. Parents must model how to limit and navigate our digital world within the real one.
Some quick tips to implement now, no matter what age your children are:
- Co-view, co-play, talk-during. Neuroscientists and pediatricians have identified person-to-person interaction during digital use as a way to cut negative effects significantly. An AAP study published in early 2016 revealed that interactive toys (light up, sounds, etc.) for young children actually interfered in learning rather than contributed to it. The more you talk, the less harmful digital use is for developing brains.
- Educate your caregiver. If you have a sitter or caregiver taking care of young children while you’re at work, inform them of any rules or changes in screen time and reasons behind it so the kids don’t get mixed messages while you’re away. Jill Stamm, an award-winning author, offers parents Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3.
- Set limits on the family … and yourself. It’s no secret that kids model what they see. No devices after 6 p.m., no phones at dinner, no screen time that lasts beyond one hour in duration in one sitting. Make rules you can live with and stick to them. Committing to putting your phone away at various times of the day shows your family that you’re willing to make changes for your health as the parent. According to Common Sense Media, two-thirds of parents and teens say mobile devices are not allowed at the dinner table, yet 47 percent said they or a family member used a mobile device at dinner in the last week and 19 percent of parents keep their phone someplace where they can see it during meals. Common Sense Media has created a fun, family friendly challenge called #DeviceFreeDinner to keep us committed and on track; get started with your family today.
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, appearing on CBS Los Angeles every Wednesday on News at 5pm and Friday mornings at 6:45am. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.