Kids and Technology: Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries with kids and technologyTechnology changes so quickly today; it can be hard to know when enough is enough. A half hour of TV was a common rule when 30-something parents were kids. What happens now when kids can leave the TV and go directly to a laptop, tablet or smartphone? Let’s look at some guidelines to help navigate through the ever-growing digital landscape.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for children between 2 and 5 years old. Screen time is the total amount of time spent watching television or using/watching any electronic device.

While interactive games are mentally beneficially for the child, they still count towards screen time. NAEYC notes that studies have correlated excessive screen time with the early onset of childhood obesity. The association does confirm that technology can be incredibly useful as an educational tool. If your child is going to spend more than 2 hours per day using an electronic device, make sure it’s in the name of furthering their education.

So how do you limit that time and make sure the time is used wisely? One Creative Mommy has some great advice on how to set those limit. Make sure the kids earn their technology time: set expectations for what they have to do before they get the privilege of watching television or playing a game on the IPad. Whether it’s chores, homework or practicing an instrument, set the expectations and be consistent with them.

Elizabeth Foss recommends setting a specific cut off time and moving all portable devices to your bedroom for the evening. TVs go off for the evening at the same time. This is a great incentive for kids to get their chores/homework/other pre-screen time activities done early so they can get their full screen time. If the cut off time comes before their full allotment of screen time, everything still gets turned off.

Elizabeth also has some great ground rules for her 9 (nine!) kids regarding age limits on social media accounts, appropriate online behavior and sharing. She and her husband decided on no social media until age 13, no possibility of Facebook or Twitter until 16, and all new social media has to be decided on by the parents. You may feel inclined to be more or less strict than her, but the guidelines are very helpful in thinking about how to set these boundaries with your own family.

Just like many subjects where children and parents may be at odds, discussion about the why behind your decisions is always important. Saying no to extra TV time is saying yes to more family time. Saying no to unsupervised use of Facebook is saying yes to helping your kids stay out of the messy side of digital life.

What ground rules have you set for your own children? We’d love to hear from you on Facebook!