Do your children spend too much time on electronic devices?
Are they tuned out of everything besides their phones, tablets, and Television?
What can you do to stop this?
What effects may too much screen time have on your kids?
My wife and I have struggled with this issue for many years. If you let your children spend too much time on their devices, you feel like they aren’t interacting enough with the outside world. They are also at risk of viewing inappropriate information and even can become victims of predators
If you limit their screen time too much, they have a tendency to drive you crazy. Although electronics should not be used for “babysitting,” most of us have become dependent on them for a little reprieve at times. This post is designed to give you some ideas on how to limit screen time effectively.
What are Tweens?
Tween is short for tweenager. A tween is a child between 9 and 12 years of age. These kids are in a transition period between small children and teenagers. Many challenges occur during this period, including:
- Puberty may start resulting in body changes and mood swings.
- Peer pressure to engage in dangerous activities often occurs during this time.
- Tweens are often coerced into using illegal drugs or having sex.
- The increased workload at school occurs. Homework can take many hours per week to complete.
- Tweens become more concerned with their appearance and social standing.
These kids are also very fond of their electronic devices.
I am sure you are aware that they begin using them at earlier ages as time progresses. If left unchecked, these kids will likely spend most of their time staring at a screen.
Harmful Effects of Too Much Screen Time
There is much debate as to the effects of too much screen time on our developing children. It is beyond the scope of this post to go into all of the studies regarding this topic. My philosophy is anything that interferes with basic human needs can be detrimental.
These basic needs include:
- Social interaction.
- Adequate sleep.
- A healthy, well-balanced diet.
It is clear that too much screen time can have a negative effect on all of these. In addition, other problems can arise based on what the child is watching on the screen.
My opinion is that screen time should be limited to keep our kids from missing out on the basic needs listed above.
I am writing this post to help parents with this daunting task.
Ideas to Limit Screen Time
I have researched this topic and will list what I believe to be the best techniques to limit screen time. Please remember that these are not the only options, but ones that I believe are the best.
Identify time periods where electronic devices are not allowed
The first step in limiting screen time is to identify “blackout periods.” These can be whatever you, as a parent, decide. Some examples are.
Meal periods – I believe meals should be family time. We have a rule in our house prohibiting electronic use during dinner.
This should be a time to discuss what happened during the day. Remember to role model this behavior. If you are talking on the phone or texting during dinner, it is hard to convince your children not to do the same.
Before Sleeping – You have probably heard that using electronic devices just prior to sleep decreases sleep quality.1
My suggestion is to take the devices away from your children at least one hour before bedtime. There are several reasons for this.
- Evening exposure to LED-backlit screens has been shown to decrease melatonin levels and decrease daytime alertness and cognitive performance.2
- Having a phone or tablet close by while sleeping increases the risk of nocturnal awakening. Phones may ring at night, and tablets may produce sounds due to various apps.
- The fact that the device is available to the child may result in them waking up earlier to begin using it.
Family time – Holidays and special occasions should be a time to interact with family and friends. This may also include vacation time. Make specific rules around screen time during these periods and stick to them.
Encourage Exercise and Outdoor Activities
One way to limit screen time is to send the kids outside to play. My family invested in a full-size trampoline to help with this. You could also have them help in the garden or play sports with them. This also helps with exercise.
Playdates with other kids is also an option.
Anything that gets them moving works.
Use Electronic Devices as Rewards
If your children believe they can use their electronics whenever they choose, it can be difficult to limit screen time.
Change the rules and only allow screen time after homework, chores, and physical activities are completed.
Remember, you are in charge, not them.
They may squawk at first, but they will survive.
Not only will this result in less screen time, but it will also incentivize your children to get their work done.
Consider Third Party Programs to Help
There are programs available at reasonable prices to help parents keep their children safe on-line. One such product is bark. This program can:
- Monitor texts, email, YouTube, and 30+ apps and platforms
- Get alerts for issues like cyberbullying, on-line predators, suicidal ideation, and more
- Manage screen time
- Filter which websites your kids can visit
- Keep up with kids with location check-ins
Another product is Net Nannytm This program also manages screen time and can block inappropriate content from reaching your children.
I am not affiliated with these companies in any way but believe their products are useful. You can find these and other products by doing a simple Google search.
Kids love electronics. I remember how excited my brother and I were when we opened our first video game console back in the dark ages. Pong was a game where each person had a flat paddle and moved it up and down the screen, trying to hit the moving square.
Video games are much more sophisticated these days.
They are designed to keep players engaged for hours. I am sure if these were available when I was younger, I would have been hooked as well.
As parents, we must protect our kids from all threats. Too much screen time can rob our children from some of their basic needs. It is essential to model the behavior we want our kids to display. I spend a lot of time on my phone, but it is almost entirely work-related. Even though this is the case, what my kids see is me on my phone most of the time. It is difficult to make them stop doing something that you are doing yourself.
Try to spend time with your kids doing things that don’t involve screens.
- Play board or card games.
- Take a hike in the woods.
- Visit the beach.
- Play sports with them.
- Bake goodies with them.
- Read a book to them.
There are many activities that can be done without electronics.
Finally, if you are worried about what your children are being exposed to or want some help managing their screen time, consider purchasing a program like bark or Net Nannytm. These can
filter out damaging content and alert you when your kids are doing inappropriate activities on-line.
Electronics are not going away any time soon. These are just a few ideas to help your children grow up happy and healthy. If you have any comments about this or any other post, please send me an email.
Until next week, be happy, healthy, and safe!
Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP
Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.
Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.