During the lockdown we’re experiencing due to Covid-19, parents are working from home alongside children who aren’t able to go to school or daycare. It can be all too tempting to let the kids spend much more time on mobile devices, using the computer or watching TV. In addition, with the rapid shift to remote schooling and social activities, many kids’ activities can only be accomplished via the internet and digital devices.
Managing family screen time is more challenging than ever, so here are five ways to help you find the right balance.
1. Take an active role in their screen time
Pay attention to what your kids are watching and doing on their devices and monitor their reactions during and after screen time. Age-appropriate and interactive content should have positive, not negative, effects on their behavior. If they’re crying, angry or aggressive after an online game or a cartoon, take the time to find out why.
Exploring online content together—for example, discussing a movie and possible ways it might have ended differently—can be an enriching experience and provide learning opportunities for both of you.
2. Revisit the rules and limits
Revisit your daily routine and set guidelines with help from technology. Parental control apps can help not only create a safe online experience, but also let you set limits. For example, ESET Parental Control for Android allows you to limit their online and gaming time and block websites with inappropriate content. It also gives a voice to kids by letting them ask you for permission to play or browse longer on specific websites.
You can also create a written “digital contract” with input from the family that outlines the amount of time everyone can spend online. That should include you, the parent. Committing to taking a break from work at a certain time each day to spend time with the family sets a great example for everyone.
3. Encourage media literacy and online safety
Having the technical skills to use digital devices doesn’t automatically mean children know how to use them responsibly. It’s important to discuss how the web differs from real life; for example, someone who uses a photo of a little boy in their profile might actually be a grownup. This is also a good time to calmly explain safety tips, like not responding to a stranger’s request for your address or a picture.
Sharing time online with your kids lets you expose them to content that is meaningful, funny, or stimulates their creativity. You can show them how the web provides tools for learning and exploring. For example, have your child name a state or a country. Then find it on a map, view photos, learn about its history, etc.
4. Keep the balance
It’s important to take a step away from the screen, for both children and parents. As a parent, you can choose non-technological ways to connect and meet the needs of the whole family. Including children in meal preparation or selecting groceries online, reading a story together or scheduling daily family walks are great ways to break up the routine.
5. Stay calm and give yourself a break too
It’s been proven that if children have rich personal resources (such as books, educational toys, hobbies, etc.) and plenty of positive interactions with family members, screen time doesn’t correlate significantly with online addiction. In these unprecedented times, some days will be easier than others so stay calm and remember to give yourself a break too.
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