Screen Savvy Parenting and How to Be Active in Your Child's Increasingly Digital World
By Cody Miller, EvergreenHealth Staff Writer
When it comes to controlling screen time for your child, you might often feel like you're at war with the world, especially as we continue to see more and more daily activities going virtual at work or school.
As your family prepares for summer break, you're likely wondering what healthy limits are when it comes to your child's screen time and how to apply them.
Jeremiah Pamer, DO, EvergreenHealth Primary Care, Redmond, helps answer your frequently asked questions and provide expert tips on how to help manage your child's screen time to support their optimal health, development and well-being.
What is considered screen time?
As screen time becomes a more common part of what a normal childhood looks like, understanding the quality of that screen time comes down to figuring out what type of screen time your child is getting each day.
While there are no cut-and-dry types of screen time, you should look to monitor and "police" screen time that is more passive or "one way."
What are the impacts or potential impacts that are seen in children as a result of screen time?
Because the digital space has taken over certain aspects of our lives so quickly and continuously evolves, it's difficult to know exactly how screen time is impacting your child. However, there have been clear correlations between development concerns and screen time that every parent should be aware of.
Not limiting your child's screen time takes away from time outdoors and physical activity, which can lead to other concerns like weight gain or even obesity. For older children who spend a lot of their screen time on social media sites and other content-sharing platforms, the negative impacts of too much screen time can be harmful psychologically. Here, bullying and poor behavior models can influence your child and chip away at their body image and self-esteem.
They could also be exposed to violence, unsafe stunts or challenges and inaccurate information.
Some other aspects of your child's life that can be impacted by screen time are:
- Ability to gain social intelligence
- Ability to make new friends
- Relationship building skills
- Confidence to actively participate in the world
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic isolated many of us from one another at least temporarily, limiting your child's screen time has implications far into their future.
What is the role parents play in monitoring screen time and encouraging healthy limits?
While screen time is becoming a bigger concern for parents with new technology, whether it's the middle of the school year or summer vacation, be sure to show yourself mercy when it comes to how much time your child spends in front of a screen.
If you feel a pang of guilt seeing your child in front of a television or tapping away on a smartphone, simply remind yourself to become an active participant in what they are consuming during screen time.
When you participate in their screen time, routines and limitations will likely fall into place.
As a primary care physician, what are some resources or tips you provide to parents when it comes to limiting screen time?
There are a ton of tricks, tips and products that could help you establish and practice screen time limits for your child, including boundaries around traditional family time like dinner, parental controls on your child's device and even designating electronics-free spaces around the house.
What works for one family may not work for yours, but it can help to think of whatever your strategy is in terms of these four principles developed by the Canadian Pediatric Association:
- Minimize - This involves the basic practice of limiting screen time altogether. The American Association of Pediatrics has guidelines for young children that suggest children under 2 years old should have very limited screen time, and it should always be with a parent using the device at the same time. Children 2-5 years old should have no more than 1 hour a day of screen time. You can also develop your own Family Media Use Plan to tailor limits specific to you.
- Mitigate - This is where you step in to filter the kind of media your child is consuming to actively limit their exposure to negative or disturbing television shows, movies, games and other forms of content. While this can be difficult with the ever-expanding range of websites and platforms your child uses, it's primarily about being an active participant in your child's digital life.
- Mindfulness - What kind of role do screens play in your family's daily life? How big of a part do they play in your household? Asking these types of questions can help you start seeing where screen time can be encroaching on family time and opportunities to connect.
- Model - As a parent, you can likely see the strong influence you have on your child. From language to sense of humor to gestures, your child takes much of your behavior and applies it oftentimes without even thinking. The same goes for screen time, which is why it is important for you to try to embody the screen time habits and behaviors you'd like to see in your child.
If you're looking for ways to become more informed about media and what experts think is appropriate for your child, Common Sense Media reviews movies, television shows, games, podcasts and more and provides recommendations based on age.
For parents with children up to 6 years old, EvergreenHealth is offering a virtual class on Sept. 13, 2022 from 7-9 p.m. The $40 class will teach you about what impacts screen technologies have on your child's growth and what that means for you as a parent. You'll hear recommendations for best practices and answers to common problems.
Register for Screen Savvy Parenting