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How to decide how much screen time a child should have


How to decide how much screen time a child should have

Obviously, digital devices are an integral part of modern life for children now, helping them both learn and play.

Yet it’s difficult to get the balance right – between education and fund; between screentime and ‘real life’.

So these are some things to take into consideration, whether it’s your own child or the pupils in your class

Get the balance right

While there are no hard and fast rules about exactly how long a child should spend on digital devices, there are a few things to consider

• Is screen-time interfering with other activities?

• Are they taking regular screen breaks to avoid problems such as eye strain and poor posture?

• Are they exhibiting more than the usual mood swings?

• Is the child getting plenty of physical exercise?

Set screen time limits

Once you’ve determined how much time you’d like a child to spend on the computer, it’s worth thinking about setting time limits (older kids can be involved in the decisions). These should be decided in advance so everyone knows exactly what to expect.

You could set the kitchen timer to stick to set times, or insist that ‘traditional’ homework (if that’s set) or music/sports practice is completed first, before the device can be used.

Keep it visible

When at school, try to keep digital time in a shared space. When at home, keep the screen time to the kitchen or living room – not in a bedroom. That’s likely to ensure they keep good habits and you can keep an eye on the games and sites they’re using. Check internet history too.

Help choose the games

The younger the child is, the more you can set limits on what they access and what games they play. Steer children of any age away from 18+ games. The earlier you put limits on, the easier they are to enforce. Once a child has had the freedom to choose, they won’t give it up easily, if at all.

Don’t just act alone

There’s strength in numbers. If teachers, parents and friends’ parents are setting the same sort of boundaries, the easier it is to stick within those boundaries. ‘But they let x do it’ isn’t an argument that holds if you stick together.

Play along

Admit it – you’ve no idea what’s going on with these things. So play with your child/pupils every now and again, or at least sit with them and get them to explain what they’re up to.

Encourage other things

One way to keep a child away from the screen is to think of something else – especially if its as a class or as a family. Don’t let the screen be the surrogate teacher or parent.

Lock them out

It might be a bit extreme, but you can download software that allows you to time how long your child’s page/login will operate at one sitting. There are lots of companies offering this online, but check with your internet service provider first to see if this is an add-on they offer as part of your package. And make that password foolproof – some kids can be surprisingly clever at hacking their way back into the computer.

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Jimmy Leach is a digital consultant, working with governments, organisations and people. He tweets at @JimmyTLeach


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