How do we get our children back to reality? Setting limits is important and Szalanczi suggests watching your children’s behaviors closely to know when it’s time to rein them in and encourage real-life interactions and old-fashioned fun.
“If a child appears to choose media over interacting with peers and family members, it is definitely time to take a closer look at what is going on,” she says.
Many parents use some kind of a schedule to closely monitor their children’s technology time. Christina Keating, mom of three, allows video games only on the weekends. Television watching only occurs after homework and chores are completed during the week.
“On the weekends we let them have a lot of freedom with TV and video games, but chores have to be done first,” she says.
Some parents choose to allow entertainment media during the week but on a rationed schedule.
“Our 7 year-old daughter has one hour per day for any electronics – TV, video games or computer,” Tina Zollo says. “If she wants more time, she can earn it by reading for fun or old-fashioned playing.”
Since technology can be both a positive and negative influence on a child, parents need to decide the purpose of the technology and if and how to limit it.
Szalanczi reminds parents that children have access to an unbelievable amount of information on the Internet, and some of that information may be difficult for children to interpret. For that reason it is important for parents to know what their child is viewing and what they are doing when using technology.
Michele Andalft lets her 5 year-old daughter have limitless time on their eReader for reading books, but gives just one hour per day for watching videos or playing games on it. She says that the parental controls on many of the devices help with limiting time.
Set up a main location for technology in your home.
“Parents may want to establish a place in the home where media is allowed, somewhere public where the parents can view the media tool’s screen at all times, particularly for younger children who need guidance as
to what is appropriate material and what is not,” Szalanczi says.
Choose a room or two in your house and declare them the “media rooms.” All electronic devices should be used and stored in the media rooms, such as the kitchen and family room. This eliminates televisions, computers, or phones in the bedrooms and decreases the chances for risky online behaviors.
Parents can more closely monitor their children’s use of technology when it is out in the open. Of course, this rule should apply to adults, too, as good role modeling for kids.
A fun and slightly sneaky way to limit entertainment media in the home is to set aside one night a week for family time – the unplugged edition.
Even if you have already designated some days as tech-free days, this gives families activities to look forward to each week and can alleviate the “We’re bored!” chants on unplugged days.
Have each family member write down three to five family night activity ideas and put them in a jar. Ideas can include pizza and a movie in pajamas, dessert buffet for dinner followed by board games, or going out to dinner and telling the waiter that you are celebrating something special – your family! If you have a teen in the house, allow her to invite a friend to join in. Encourage creativity and watch how the ideas grow each month when kids are adding new activities to the jar.
Your kids will never miss their game systems or cell phones when they are laughing and enjoying real face-to-face fun.
Setting limits allows children to engage in activities that they enjoy but sends a clear signal to them about expectations. Allowing technology but limiting it in certain ways teaches children about moderation, a lesson that will carry with them throughout their lives.