Television, video games and internet have a strong influence on the lives of most families. But too much screen time can have unhealthy side effects. Here are some practical ways to make kids' screen time more productive.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, and that kids older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. Limit the number of TV-watching hours:
- Keep TVs out of kids' bedrooms.
- Stock the room in which you have your TV with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, kids' magazines, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.)
- Turn off the TV during meals.
- Don't allow your child to watch TV while doing homework.
- Treat TV as a privilege that kids need to earn — not a right that they're entitled to.
Set a good example. Limit your own TV viewing.
Use age-group ratings if available and use parental control tools.
Watch TV with your kids when you can. Co-viewing allows you to discuss the show with them, and if something inappropriate is shown or said, you can point out that it is something that doesn’t meet your family’s standards. You can use TV to explain confusing situations and express your feelings about difficult topics (sex, love, drugs, alcohol, smoking, work, behavior, discrimination).
Preview programs. Make sure you think they're appropriate before your kids watch them.
Offer fun alternatives to television like playing a board game, starting a game of hide and seek, playing outside, reading, etc.
Video and Interactive Computer Games
Look at the ratings. Video games do have ratings to indicate when they have violence, strong language, mature sexual themes, and other content that may be inappropriate for kids.
Preview the games. Even with the ratings, it's still important to preview the games — or even play them — before letting kids play.
Monitor how the games are affecting your kids. If they seem more aggressive after spending time playing a certain game, discuss the game and help them understand how the violence that's portrayed is different from what occurs in the real world
Become computer literate. Learn how to block objectionable material.
Keep the computer in a common area. Avoid putting a computer in a child's bedroom.
Share an email account with younger children. That way, you can monitor who is sending them messages.
Bookmark your child's favorite sites. Your child will have easy access and be less likely to browse into inappropriate content.
Spend time online together. Teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
Monitor kids use of chat rooms. Be aware that posting messages to chat rooms reveals a child's email address to others.
Find out about online protection elsewhere. Find out what, if any, online protection is offered at school, after-school centers, friends' homes, or any place where kids could use a computer without your supervision
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