Here’s a frustrating fact about how digital screen time affects children: experts don’t always agree. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated there could be a correlation between poor sleep patterns and using digital devices, while Science Daily reported children’s sleep wasn’t significantly affected by screen time. So how does one set the proper limits on screen time for children?
This is where parental intuition comes in. Parents generally understand if an action is positively or negatively impacting their child’s behavior. It’s why parental controls on devices are so important for parents.
Here are five tips for setting screen time limits on your child’s devices.
Tip #1: Set Realistic and Clear Limits on Screen Time
Many parents report their children are obsessed with digital devices. Younger and younger children are gaining access to devices. In order to ensure their sleep and behavior aren’t negatively impacted, putting clearly-defined limits on screen time is recommended.
A good start — setting aside a block of time, or a certain day of the week, when the child is allowed to use their devices. According to Anya Kamenetz, author of The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, “Having clear rules works well for us at this age.”
Parents can easily set specific screen time hours on a child’s device, and let them understand the reasons why.
Tip #2: Limit Screen Time to an Hour a Day for Children Under 5
With devices being so ubiquitous in everyday life, it isn’t really reasonable that kids have no device access, but better limits can be placed on their use. The Canadian Pediatric Society, which believes screen time can negatively impact a child’s sleep, attention, mood and behavior, suggests no screen time for children under the age of two, and no more than an hour a day for children two to five.
Tip #3: No Screen Time Before Bed
How long before bed is best for stopping device usage or TV time? In Dr. Susan Biali Haas’ Psychology Today article “Six Ways That Night-time Phone Use Destroys Your Sleep, she notes screen usage impacts how long it takes a person to fall asleep, delays circadian clock rhythm, suppresses melatonin secretion, decreases REM sleep and more. Haas’ personal rule of thumb: she forces herself to stop using any device between 90-minutes to two hours before bedtime.
Tip #4: If All Else Fails, Take the Devices Away at Night
It’s sometimes hard for children and teens to see why we’re taking something they enjoy away “for their own good.” Remember: you’re the parent and rules are rules. Sleep impacts so much of a person’s mental and physical health and physically removing phones, tablets and TV time help, so do it!
Tip #5: Take Your Own Screen Time Advice
One of the hardest things about parenting is trying to explain to your child why it’s okay for you to do something you claim is bad, but they can’t. When it comes to the “no screen time before bed” rule, model the behavior you expect from your child by observing screen time rules. It’ll improve sleep for both of you.