The computer can be a valuable educational and entertainment asset in your home – especially if you have children. However, it is important to set limits on the amount of time your kids spend on the computer starting at a young age. Without computer time limits for kids, you risk your children developing an addiction to the Internet and time-consuming computer games.
In fact, according to a 2009 study by Pangea Media and YPulse, by the young age of 8, an astounding three out of four children say that they would rather give up the television than access to the Internet. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that too much time on the computer and other forms of media outlets can lead to obesity and attention disorders. So how can you limit screen time without being over-restrictive?
Set Clear Boundaries
Determine exactly how much computer time is appropriate for your child each day depending on his or her age. The AAP recommends zero screen time for children under age two, and no more than one or two hours of educational computer or television time per day for older children. These computer time limits for kids should extend into the pre-teen and teenage years, when social media often demands more attention. Furthermore, consider staging computer-free times and spaces in your home. For example, avoid letting your children have computers or laptops in their bedrooms or before homework assignments are complete.
Offer Exciting Alternatives
Taking away the computer altogether is never a good idea, as doing so could cause resentment or distrust from your child. Instead, encourage non-computer related activities that are appealing to your child. This may include going outside for a ride on the bicycle, playing some miniature golf with friends or planting his or her very own outdoor garden.
Your children mimic your leadership and need to see you lead with consistency. If you implement computer time limits for your kids’ time online each day, try to abide by the same rules yourself. Your example will make the transition to less computer time easier for your children – especially if they exchange the screen time for more one-on-one time with you.