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Summer Screen Time Recommendations

By Bernadette LaMotte, CPNP, Suffolk Pediatrics

For many kids, summer means freedom, but it can also mean more time staring at a tiny blue screen on a cell phone.

How much is too much? How can you set limits? Is there a way to keep your children safe from dangers that lurk in the digital world?

It’s important for parents to set limits on electronic screen time, whether it’s on a cell phone, electronic tablet, a laptop computer, or a TV screen. Kids who spend too much time sitting and staring at a screen don’t have as much time for face-to-face interaction and moving around, which are important for social and physical development.

Here are some safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Set limits and encourage playtime.

Place a reasonable limit on media use. Unstructured, offline play stimulates creativity. Make non-electronic playtime a priority, especially for very young children.

Share some screen time with children.

Co-view, co-play, and co-engage with your children when they are using screens to encourage social interaction, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids to show good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. Watch a show with them to share your own life experiences, perspectives, and guidance.

Be a good role model.

 Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Also, limit your own media use. You’ll be more available for your children if you're interacting and playing with them instead of staring at a screen. 

Create tech-free zones.

Keep family mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, and children's bedrooms screen free. Turn off televisions when you’re not watching because background TV can get in the way of face-to-face time with kids. Recharge devices overnight and outside your children’s bedrooms to avoid use during sleep time.

Don’t use technology as an emotional pacifier.

 Media can keep kids calm and quiet, but kids also need to learn to calm down without a device. Help them learn how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing. Talk about ways to solve the problem, and find other strategies for channeling emotions.

Limit digital media for young family members.

Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 months to 2 years of age, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just one hour a day of high-quality programming.

Check out the apps your kids are using.

 More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research backs up quality. Organizations like Common Sense Media – – have reviews about age-appropriate apps, games, and programs to help you make the best choices.

It's OK for your teen to be online.

 Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about themselves. Be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Teens need to be reminded that a platform's privacy settings do not make things actually "private" and that images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint. Also, be on the lookout if your kids are experiencing negative emotions after screen time because they’re feeling bullied or ostracized because of online interactions.

Warn children about the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators and sexting.

Teens need to know that once content is shared with others, they will not be able to delete or remove it completely and that includes texting inappropriate pictures. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings, and they need to be warned that sex offenders often use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online gaming to contact and exploit children.

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About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.