How many hours a day is your child on their phone, computer or playing video games? The statistics of how much time is all over the place, but most research concludes it is too much. The older a child gets, the harder it is to set limits on devices. There are some good things about the technology and available information our kids can access, like help with homework, Facetiming family and friends and improving hand-eye coordination and strategic planning while playing some video games. But too much screen time can be unhealthy both physically and mentally.
The thing is, every kid is different on what they can handle. With older kids, make screen time experiences a part of everyday conversation. Ask them what sites they like to visit or what they like to play. Talk with your teenage daughter about the reality of social media posts. The perfect life depicted with filtered photographs are most often illusions. If they wake up and check social media first thing they need to think about their priorities.
For teen boys, video gaming can become an addiction. Instead of meeting up at the park or hanging out at the mall, they play against each other on their favorite video game. This is socializing in a sense but not a face-to-face interaction. Teens need the consistency of a balanced life and an overload of gaming will negatively impact other areas. Encourage your kids to choose a sport or extracurricular that they are excited about, one that motivates them to get active or get out in the community. They can make friends online, but deep friendships grow with face-to-face interactions.
If you feel your teen needs back up when it comes too much screen time, sit down and develop a contract with them. Communication is so important at this stage in their lives and they need to understand you are trying to parent them to their best life, which includes work and a little play. Maybe they agree to one hour of gaming on the weekdays and 2 to 3 hours on the weekend. If you have to get more strict, shut down the WiFi or take the cords to the device. My son was so consumed with Fortnite this summer that he was going strong until the wee hours of the morning. His solution was to bring me the cord so he had no choice but to sleep or do something else.
All this being said, Mom and Dad need to be good roles models when it comes to screen time. That can be a toughie. Kids are watching how adults in their house spend their days and nights. Plan family events where everyone can be together, whether it be at home or out. Meal time should be strictly screen-free.
Life with screens is here to stay and it may take some time to see what the long term cultural effects will be. Finding a balance is the trick.