Few parents ban all screens, but managing your child’s screen time can be difficult and some parents feel guilty about how long their young children spend looking at devices – whether it’s a mobile phone, a tablet or the television.
Five ways you can achieve a healthy balance
These tips fall into one of two groups: ones that use screen time for positive, worthwhile activities, and those that create workable routines when your child can play independently. But there are no hard and fast rules – you have to work out what’s best for your family.
- Have family guidelines. Most families have a routine for mealtimes and bedtime, and the same approach can work for screen time.
- Start early. The sooner you establish a pattern of behaviour, the better. It’s much harder once children know what their friends are allowed to do.
- Set boundaries. You might allow screen time on Sunday morning so you can have a lie in, but not on weekday mornings, or within an hour of bedtime. Similarly, screen time in the living room may be OK, but not in the bedroom. Depending on your child’s age, you could make these decisions together.
- Share screen time. Perhaps take it in turns to choose a game to play or video to watch – and talk about it the same way you would a book you were reading. Or video-call a relative and encourage your child to tell them family news or a story, or show something they’ve made.
- Involve your child in your own screen time. Share activities such as looking up train times and encourage them to join in. But try to limit your screen time when your child’s about. If you’re always checking your phone, they’ll do the same.
- Encourage creativity. Use apps to help your child create photos, videos, drawings and stories.
- Extend your child’s play beyond the screen. Find out which apps they like and plan related activities, such as dressing up as one of their favourite characters.
You can find more articles by Lydia at edinburgh.academia.edu/LydiaPlowman