As a child and teen therapist in Washington DC, I am frequently talking with parents about how to manage screen time. In my work providing individual psychotherapy to children/teens and family counseling, I don’t use a ‘one size fits all’ approach–every child and family has different needs and benefits from individualized interventions and strategies. While creating a media plan that’s right for your family, consider these tips:
- Try thinking through family values, scheduling, and household rules before developing a screen time plan that works for your family. The American Academy of Pediatrics has an easy-to-use family media planning tool.
- When your child or teen asks to download a new app or watch a video, it’s important to review it ahead of time to ensure that it’s developmentally appropriate and safe for their viewing. Check out Common Sense Media for a detailed library of product reviews and recommendations to help you make your decision.
- As for all behaviors, our children are watching our every move. Model healthy screen time usage. Start by noticing how often you’re reaching for your phone or turning on the TV during parent-child time.
- Create screen-free zones within the house. Decide what rooms or areas in your home are technology-free, and ensure that all family members adhere to this rule.
- Create screen-free times during the day/night/weekend where all family members put down all the devices and engage in quality time with one another. This may be a good opportunity to talk about your day at school or work, do a puzzle together, take a family bike ride, eat an uninterrupted meal, etc. Remember that screen time should never replace sleep, meals, exercising or homework.
- The blue light from electronic devices with screens can impact an individual’s ability to sleep soundly. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “the blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule.” Experts recommend turning off screens 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Set parental controls on your children’s devices. There is so much information out there for how to monitor and regulate what your children are watching and doing on their electronics. Parents Magazine has a wonderful guide for setting up parental controls for every type of device.
- Have ongoing conversations with your children and teens about online safety. Common Sense Media outlines 5 internet safety tips in this short video.
You can always discuss the impact of screen time with your child’s therapist and/or pediatrician. Here at The Sibley Group, we have many child and teen therapists who can work with you to create a plan to best fit the needs of your family.