In an age where technology is everywhere you turn, many American children are spending way too much time watching television and using the Internet. According to experts with the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids are spending around 7 hours each day using electronics, including computers, cellphones, televisions and handheld devices. As many as 8 to 12 percent of kids in the U.S. are even addicted to the Internet, which can cause disruptions in their lives, agitation and mood swings. Since too much screen time can be harmful for children, it's important for parents to set limits and monitor their children's use of electronics.
To reduce TV time and to make it easier to monitor what he's watching, keep the television out of your child's bedroom. Only allow your child to watch movies and television programs in the common areas of your home, where you can keep an eye on what's playing. Check out programs and movies your child wants to see before allowing him to watch them, to make sure they are appropriate for him, suggest child development experts at the Kids Health website. You can also check the ratings beforehand to get an idea of whether or not it's safe for your child to see. If your television has a V-chip inside, change your TV settings to prevent violent and inappropriate shows from even playing.
While the Internet can be a educational tool for children, it can also put kids in danger. It's important for parents to be involved in what their kids are doing online. Show an interest by asking your child what he likes to do online. Create rules about sharing his user names and passwords with you, so that you can check in on his activities. Just like with television, AAP professionals advise parents to keep computers out of kids' rooms. Place them in areas of the home where you can keep an eye on what is being done on them. Keep up with your child's social media activity and make sure he knows never to share personal information or talk with strangers online, participate in cyber bullying, or send or open inappropriate pictures.
Create screen time limits for kids and stick to them. The AAP's HealthyChildren.org recommends that kids 2 years old and older get no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time each day. Screen time includes time watching television, playing video games, using the computer or cellphone and participating in social media activities. Encourage your kids to do other things instead, such as playing outside, reading, playing sports or doing one of their hobbies. Turn the television off during meals and homework time. Create a schedule for your kids' television and Internet time, so they know what to expect and when they are allowed to watch TV or use the computer.
Monitor what you kids are watching and doing online by spending time watching television or playing online with them. At the very least, check in on them often while they're doing these activities, suggest the Kids Heath pros. Make sure your kids are sticking to their time limits by setting a timer. You can also monitor what your children do on the computer or online and control time limits by taking advantage of one of the safety programs available, such as Windows Live Family Safety, a program that tracks computer activity, or Time Monitor, a program that signs users out after their time is up.
- Kids Health: Healthy Habits for TV, Video Games and the Internet
- American Academy of Pediatrics News: Internet Addiction a Real Problem for U.S. Kids
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Safety Net
- WebMD: Less Screen Time for Kids
- HealthyChildren.org: Where We Stand: TV Viewing Time
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Media and Children
- CNET: How to Monitor Kids' Online and Computer Activity in Windows
- CNET: Time Monitor
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