Why manage time with media?
Years of research shows that too much screen time can negatively affect children’s health and development. Creating guidelines around the amount of time children spend with screens can help them balance screen media in their lives in healthy ways.
How much time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents create a Family Media Use Plan for their children based on the individual child. This plan helps parents balance daily activities, including sleep, school, homework, family meals, time with friends, exercise, and other acitivities, including time with media (such as video games, social media, and television).
Will a media plan work?
Research shows that when parents create a Family Media Use Plan, children and teens are more likely to balance their time with screen media. If children and teens understand how to best manage their time and daily activities, they are more likely to make thoughtful choices about how to use their time with media.
What YOU Can Do
Start with a positive, rather than restrictive approach. Instead of talking about media time limits, focus on creating a Family Media Use Plan. Use tools such as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Use Plan, or even a print calendar, to help your children understand how their time is being spent. Use the following points to help guide the plan:
Your child may not want to create a plan if they do not understand why it is being made. Be honest with your child, and explain how too much screen time can negatively affect their health. Explain that the goal of the plan is to fit in all of their activities in a way that supports their health and happiness.
A school age child or teen will most likely need to spend time online doing research for a school project. Note that time spent doing homework is different from time spent using screen media for personal enjoyment, so make sure that children have some time to use social media, watch TV, or play a video game after their school work is completed.
By keeping TVs, computers, and video game consoles in common areas, you can more easily follow the plan by monitoring how much time is spent with screen media.
Avoid using media as background noise. Encourage your child to carefully choose which screen media to include in their plan, and help them use media for a purpose, and when finished, to move on to the next activity.
Parents can use parental control software to set time limits, as well as to block certain content, and track activity. Before buying parental control software, read reviews to determine if it is a product that will work for your family.
Make sure that your plan includes media-free time such as mealtimes, or during family visits. This can help children have meaningful interactions with others, and be mindful of when they use screen media. Also, discourage the use of any media in the child’s bedroom, especially after lights out as this can interrupt their sleep.