If you are the parent of a child 5 years old or younger, you probably find sites like Youtube and Netflix to be a part of your child’s daily routine.
Whether the child enjoys songs, dancing, cars or even random toy reviews, it can seem like a harmless way to spend their time. However, like most good things in life, it’s bad. Oh life. Why are you like this??
There are countless studies on the negative effects of prolonged media exposure in young children. In the 1950’s it was television. We’ve all heard it before. TV rots the brain. Children need exercise and human interaction to develop properly. While there is still truth in those statements, there is a new phenomenon that many parents may not be aware of.
Let’s be more specific. Internet media sites can be great educational tools when used properly, but when abused they can wreck a child’s attention span, potentially expose them to adult content before they are ready and teach their young minds to obsess over constant reward.
Don’t believe it? At least with television you had to sit through commercials, wait for your favorite show to come on and choose from a limited amount of options. Now all of your child’s favorites are readily available, with you being the only obstacle between a child and an endless stream of wacky fun times.
So there you have it! Burn your computers and gaming systems! Vacate your homes and move to the wilderness where that crafty internet can’t harm your children. Problem solved. Thanks for reading!
Ok so maybe that was a bit drastic. As a parent, you are in control of what your child views and how often they view it. You just have to take an active interest and formulate a plan to keep your child safe.
Here are a few tips you can use to help monitor and limit your child’s screen time. These may not all work for you, as every child responds differently to different techniques, but I recommend trying each at least once until something works.
- Set a time limit and stick to it.
Though some experts have thrown out one hour per day as a good limit for screen time, every child and every situation is different. The most important thing here is to make sure the child has enough free time to explore the world around them.
For example, if a child has only three hours of free time each day (unlikely for a child under 5), spending more than half of that on screen time seems excessive. Experiment with different times, different days, whatever it takes.
- Use internet time as a reward for good behavior.
This is especially helpful for children experiencing attitude issues or those who demand screen time rather than request it. Allowing your child to earn something rather than giving it to them freely sets them up for the realities of adult life.
- Suggest alternative ideas when the child requests screen time.
Make a list of potential activities that your child may enjoy. When they ask for the laptop/tablet/etc., bombard them with as many alternative ideas as possible. How about a trip to the park? A good book? Want to clean daddy’s car?
You may fail to catch their interest with 100 ideas, and you may have to push them to try a few, but one successful idea will make a world’s difference. If you want to limit screen time, fill that void with activities your child can still get excited about!
- Find activities that still allow a break for the caregiver.
We’re all guilty of plopping our kids in front of the screen for a mental break. Children can be mentally exhausting. There’s no shame in admitting that. Or at least there shouldn’t be.
We live in a society where many parents are now unable to afford child care (it’s not cheap) and are forced to provide it for themselves. This can lead to exhaustingly long days for the parent.
Why is the screen so tempting when parents need a break? Simple. It keeps them entertained, there is no physical danger involved (usually), and it keeps them happy.
Wait a minute. Can those qualities really only be met by internet media? Why can’t drawing or reading books do the same thing? There are thousands of possible activities that can fill the void. Find one, please!
- Take the screens away completely.
Let’s hope it never comes to this, but if your child is completely detached from reality, obsessed with the constant thrill of video surfing or exhibiting other negative effects, take it away. Start over. And RUN! They’re really mad now!
Once your child stops attacking you, see tip #3. Remember that part about you being in control? It really is true. You set your child’s reality and it’s so easy to remove things from their environment once you decide to. Maybe this is a good time to reiterate that we’re talking about children under 5.
No matter what you decide to do, control the situation when it comes to screen time. Don’t allow your child to live in a reality of endless pleasure.
Play a game with them. Figure out a puzzle or riddle together. Organize an activity where they’ll have to learn and use their intellect for that sweet reward. Why? Because that’s reality, unfortunately.
So now that we’ve discussed keeping your child from harm’s way online, let’s look at some ways the internet can be fun and exciting…and mostly educational!
We all know that there are tons of educational apps and shows out there for teaching children. Use them! Seriously. No matter how corny they may seem,most are designed to attract and maintain the attention of a child.
Consider the following categories when searching for educational tools online for your child:
- Color/Shape Recognition
- Simple Mathematics
Your mind may tell you that learning won’t be fun for your child. Ignore it. A lot of apps and videos out there do a fantastic job of hiding their educational motives. A child under 5 years old may never know they are being taught something. All they will see is colors and excitement.
If you as a parent take an active interest in what your child is viewing, you’ve already won this battle. It’s that simple. No fancy filters, passwords or child-proof locks are necessary. Control the time spent using technology. Control what kind of content your child views. And, most importantly, control whether or not your child deserves to use the technology at all. Control, control and more control. Thanks for reading!