By Rosanna Castro
As summer ends, parents may be worried about the time their children are spending using digital devices. FIU Psychologist Justin Parent offers the following tips to help parents manage this transition ahead of the school year:
- Reduce use of digital devices by small increments every few days. Gradually replace some screen time with reading or other educational activities. Parents may need to say things like, “When you read for 15 minutes, then you can get more screen time.”
- Use an app to limit screen time. Using Apple’s Screen Time or Android’s Digital Wellbeing app can help set specific time limits appropriate for your child — no more than two hours a day, no screen time after 8 p.m. or only 30 minutes a day of social media.
- Set parental controls. The content of children’s screen time is equally important, or even more important, as the time spent on devices. Tools including YouTube Parental Controls, Apple's Screen Time or Android's Digital Wellbeing can help limit access to inappropriate content.
- Join in. Parents can more effectively monitor content by watching their children play or even playing alongside them! They can learn about what their children are doing and who they play with. Joining in is also a perfect time to highlight positive aspects of the content, such as the creativity children demonstrate while playing a building game like Minecraft.
- Keep screen time from interfering with sleep. One of the biggest reasons screen time negatively impacts children’s well-being is it can compromise sleep duration and quality. Limit exciting or emotionally charged screen time in the hour before bed. Remove phones, tablets and game systems from bedrooms at night.
“By providing these recommendations, we hope to open the dialogue on healthy tech use and empower parents to make choices that feel right for their families,” Parent said.
Parent is director of the Child and Family Well-being Clinic and Lab at the FIU Center for Children and Families. Beginning this fall, the center will offer monthly Tech Parenting Workshops for parents of children ages 5 to 12. The workshops will help parents manage their child’s use of smartphones, tablets, video games and other devices, and explain how to set parental controls. For information, visit cfw.fiu.edu or call 305-348-2509.