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Parent’s Guide to Managing Screen Time: Balancing Education and Entertainment on Tablets and Phones in School

Our lives now are filled with screens, and kids are exposed to them from a very young age. Parental control over screen time and other activities is crucial, even if technology can serve as a potent instrument for both pleasure and education. Working as teachers and guardians at Harrow International School Hong Kong, we are aware of the difficulties parents have in controlling how much time their kids spend on screens, particularly when it comes to juggling learning and entertainment on tablets and phones.

How Do Parents Control Screen Time?

As children can quickly get absorbed in the world of apps, games, and movies, parents may find it difficult to manage screen time. To guarantee that screen use doesn’t impede other areas of a child’s development, like physical exercise, social contact, and sleep, it’s important to establish defined limits and rules.

Developing a family media plan that specifies the guidelines and expectations for screen use is one useful tactic. Specifics include the duration of time allotted for certain activities (e.g., educational applications, games, or films), the hours when using a screen is allowed, and the penalties for breaking the rules should be included in this plan.

Accessed from: Cnet website. Many operating systems have such options to limit screen time.

Negative Effects of Screen Time on Child Development

Overuse of screens can be harmful to a child’s physical, cognitive, and social development, even though moderate use can have positive educational impacts. Several possible drawbacks include of:

Obesity and inactive lifestyle: Too much screen time can result in unproductive behaviour, which exacerbates childhood obesity and other health problems.

Sleep disturbances: Poor sleep quality along with potential behavioural issues could arise from the displays’ blue light emitting, which can disrupt sleep cycles.

Attention and focus problems: A child’s capacity to focus and pay attention for long stretches of time on activities might be impacted by continual exposure to fast-paced, stimulating material.

Social and emotional development: Because they lose out on in-person relationships and real-life experiences, a young person who spends too much time on screens may struggle to grow in terms of their social skills and emotional intelligence.

Accessed from: Edweek website. Taken from a survey of educators by the EdWeek Research Center. 

What Are the Tips for Parents To Limit Screen Time?

Here are some six actionable tips for parents to efficiently control their kids’ screen time:

  1. Set an example: Since kids frequently take after their parents, it’s important to set a good example for them when it comes to using screens.
  2. Involve your child: Talk to them honestly about the value of juggling screen time with other activities and let them help to establish appropriate boundaries.
  3. Create device-free zones and hours: Decide when and where in your house—like during meals or after a particular hour—screens are prohibited.
  4. Promote alternate activities: Encourage reading, outdoor play, board games, or creative pastimes as non-screen activities.
  5. Use parental controls: To establish time restrictions, filter material, and keep an eye on your child’s screen use, utilise the parental control tools included into the operating system or third-party apps.
  6. Be constant and follow through: After setting screen time guidelines, it’s critical to continuously uphold them and, if needed, follow through with repercussions.

Accessed from: UNICEF website

What Are the Guidelines for Screen Time for Children?

Though opinions on the best amount of screen time for kids are divided, a number of organisations have offered recommendations to assist parents in making decisions:

World Health Organisation (WHO): Children under two should not use screens.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, or AACAP:

  • Children under 18 months old should not use screens, unless they are video chatting.
  • For kids two to five years old, no more than one hour a day of high-quality media.
  • For kids six years old and above, set regular screen time limitations that don’t conflict with sleep, exercise, or other critical components of their growth.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH):

  • There are no set time restrictions, just that screen time does not take the place of family time, exercise, or sleep.

It is noteworthy that these recommendations are meant to be a guideline; parents should base their decisions on the needs, developmental stage, and general well-being of their particular child.

Limiting Screen Time in a Digital World

Though it might be challenging to manage, children’s screen time control is essential to their general growth and wellbeing. Positive parenting may help their kids enjoy a healthy connection with technology by establishing boundaries, promoting other hobbies, and setting an example. Knowing the value of this balance, we at Harrow International School Hong Kong work with and assist parents in negotiating the digital world while putting their kids’ education and development first.