Summer Break & Screen Time: What To Know
Summer break is an exciting time for kids and parents alike, but all the extra free time can come at the cost of too much screen time. How much is too much? And how can parents ensure they stick to appropriate screen time limits by age, without getting into power struggles? Here are some tips.
Screen Time Limits
Most parents agree that it’s ok for children to have some downtime on devices, whether on a TV, video game console, iPad or cell phone. But the problems emerge when staring at screens is all kids want to do. If you need to limit your kids’ screen time, here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Limit media use by children under 2
- Limit older kids’ screen time to one or two hours per day, maximum
You know your children and what works best for your family. If you’re concerned about destructive habits being formed, it’s probably a good indication their current screen time practices aren’t as healthy as they could be.
Effects Of Excess
Some parents wonder why screen time is such a bad thing. Aside from a reliance on screens teaching kids that they need to be constantly entertained (and potentially reducing their resourcefulness, creativity and attention spans), it also has real impacts on their eyes.
Too much time spent looking at devices can contribute to myopia (nearsightedness) as well as digital eye strain, which often manifests as dry eyes, itchy eyes, blurry vision and headaches. If your children spend a lot of time watching TV, playing games or on the internet, you can use preservative-free artificial tears to keep their eyes lubricated and teach them the 20/20/20 (every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds).
Additionally, the blue light from electronic devices can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep. To prevent this from happening, cut off screen time about an hour before bed and consider buying amber-tinted - or other blue light blocking - glasses.
Managing Screen Time
Of course this sounds well and good, but it can be very hard to implement if children have become accustomed to unlimited screen time. Start by having an age-appropriate conversation with your kids about why there needs to be a change with their devices, and how it will work. Keep it simple and use language they’ll understand.
If you’re worried you’ll lose track of the time limits, explore built-in limits (like with Apple’s “screen time” functionality). With older kids, you can present screen time as a fun hobby that needs to be earned. Once they finish their chores or spend time reading or playing outdoors, they can then have a certain amount of screen time. Use fun stickers or charts to keep track, and tell them how responsible they are for following the rules.
These are just a few ideas; if they don’t work, keep trying other approaches. You might be surprised by the strides you and your kids can make in this area together, and all the benefits that come with it.
Any questions, or need to schedule an eye exam for you or your kids? Give us a call!