Managing Your Child's Screen Time
Ask any parent and they will tell you - whether we like it or not, screen time has become a battle between most kids and their parents. With developers now offering apps and games targeted toward even younger children, parents are left to wonder how best to manage screen time for even preschool and toddler-aged children.
A new study offers some insight but also has some surprises, including the fact that giving a preschooler a "two minute" warning for media shutdown may actually backfire. Even though the study found almost four in every five parents used the "two minute warning" technique, only 20 percent of them said it actually helped.
Researchers believe the "two more minutes" warning can both set expectations and remind a child that he or she is not the one in control. Unfortunately, this may lead to a power struggle.
In the study, researchers from the University of Washington interviewed 27 sets of parents, and 28 families also kept a "screen time diary" for two weeks. One finding ran counter to what many may believe: In most cases, parents were not deemed to be using a tablet or other device as a kind of electronic "babysitter," the research team found.
In fact, nearly all the parents expressed a "general negative impression" of screen media for kids, and felt exposure should be carefully monitored and limited. It was often tough to get a child to stop using devices on their own, however, and most said they - not their child - put an end to sessions. The most common reason for doing so was because of a change in situation, such as an impending play date.
How did the kids typically respond? Nearly 60 percent of the time parents got a "neutral" reaction to their request, and in 20 percent of cases children even reacted "positively," the researchers said. However, things turned negative in about 20 percent of cases. And nearly all parents said their child had, on occasion, thrown a tantrum in response to being asked to leave their device. More than a third of parents said turning screens off almost always sparked a fight.
So what else worked to prevent screen-related tantrums? Many parents said establishing regular, predictable viewing habits helped smooth out the process. Also helpful was shutting down electronics natural stopping points such as when a video ended, or when embarking on a daily routine such as breakfast.
Researchers encourages parents to consider not just the time spent viewing, but the content of what the children are viewing. They say that it is somewhat unavoidable for children to be interested in technology so the important role parents can play is in helping them find appropriate games, apps and videos to engage with.
Parents should pay extra attention to age appropriateness, as well as what content is appropriate for their child's unique disposition. Knowing what may frighten your child or, conversely, what will engage your child is one critical piece to solving the electronic dilemma.
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