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Start Your Kids on a Screen Diet

Allowing your child to sit in front of a screen whenever he or she wants has unintended consequences.

Remember reading about the prohibition era and the banning of alcohol? The Eighteen Amendment was supposed to put an end to alcoholism and cure all kinds of social ills, but instead created an underground economy, Al Capone, and NASCAR; or how about the Kudzu vine that was brought to the United States to serve as a natural shade on porches, but found, in the United States, the conditions needed for the plant to grow so prolifically that it earned the moniker of “the vine that ate the south”? Almost every decision has unintended consequences—allowing your child to sit in front of a screen whenever he or she feels like it is no different.

One unintended consequence of electing to choose an iPad over a box of crayons may be an increase in Occupational Therapist in elementary schools. The Daily Telegraph published an article claiming that “techno-savvy kids can tap, swipe and pinch touch screens before they have learnt to tie their shoelaces, worrying health and education experts that they are failing to gain basic motor skills.” Imagine more and more children entering the first grade without the fine motor skills needed to grip a pencil or use a pair of scissors. Excessive screen time has also been linked to obesity, violence, and impulse control in children. Technology is important and rather than take devices completely away from your child, parents should be intentional about the quality and quantity of their child’s time in front of a screen. Below is list of recommendations for a screen time diet.

  • Know how your child spends his or her time online. Ask questions about what they are watching or playing and even watch and play alongside them.
  • Find apps and websites that educate as well as entertain.
  • Schedule playdates and other offline activities on a weekly basis. Children need to socialize and interact with the physical space around them.
  • Set physical boundaries: no devices at the table and no internet in bedrooms.
  • Keep the television off when nobody is watching it.
  • Set limits on your child’s screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests less than two hours a day.
  • Revisit your restrictions and limitations as your child grows older. What is okay for a teenager may not be appropriate for an adolescent.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend online. Modeling responsible behavior will help your child follow suit.

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