8 Ways to Limit Tech-Time

Phoebe Weatherall
Aug. 3, 2012

Get your kids to unplug by setting guidelines and talking to your sitter.

In today's tech-focused world, children are surrounded by electronics on a day-to-day basis. It's natural for families to welcome these gadgets at home, but when does technology stop benefiting children and start hampering their development?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents cap a preschooler's daily screen-time to two hours and keep children 2 years and under away from technology all together. Children of all ages should have limits on electronics use and learn to prioritize school work and tech-free activities.

But how do you get your kids to cut back? Here are five easy tips to keep your kids' tech-time in check.

  1. Lead by Example
    Monkey see, monkey do. Are calls for a TV timeout answered by complaints of your BlackBerry at the dinner table or iPad with the morning cup of coffee? Don't expect your kids to prefer a game of hide-and-seek to their PlayStation when your preferences are equally partial. Limit the time you spend plugged-in at home so that you're being a good example.

    Read about the Real Price of an iPad.

  2. Get Savvy
    Even if you don't have a Facebook or Twitter account, you should know the ins and outs of social media. After all, if your kids aren't friending and tweeting already, you can bet they will be soon enough. And it's up to you to make sure they're navigating the internet safely. Check out our article about "How to Supervise Your Child Online" for more information about parental controls and privacy settings on the web.

  3. Find an Ally in your Nanny
    Don't let your rules unravel when you head out the door. If computer games are limited to a half-hour, make sure your nanny knows that. An hour in front of the TV can become an all-night affair if your babysitter doesn't know your rules. And your kids won't correct her -- hey, who can blame them? In fact, a study published in "Pediatrics" revealed children may watch twice as much TV with a child care provider than with their parents.

    Have a conversation with your nanny or sitter that outlines your expectations. Cover these bases:

    • Invite your kids to join the conversation. Your nanny will have an easier time enforcing the rules if they know she has the authority. Don't be afraid to allow negotiations. If you're going out for dinner on a Friday night, make the evening into a special occasion for your kids too. Grant an extra half-hour of TV time or rent the most recent blockbuster.
    • Don't make the rules stricter in your absence. If you stick the kids in front of the TV while you make dinner or sneak in some mommy-time, don't ask your nanny to do it all. Not only will she be overwhelmed, but your kids will resent the change in routine.
    • Talk about time. Be clear about the amount of time your kids are allowed to spend with electronics. How many episodes of TV can they watch? Are computer games restricted to a half-hour? How many Tweets and Facebook posts can they send? Does homework have to be completed first? Lay it all out on the table for your kids.
    • Keep it clean. Although the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) ratings correspond to appropriate viewing ages, many parents judge a movie's content uniquely. If you deviate from the G or PG-13 rules-of-thumb or prefer to consult review sites like Kids-in-Mind, make sure your babysitter is privy to your system for judging appropriateness. Is any content strictly forbidden (i.e. nudity, swearing, violence)? Can an older brother or sister watch something that's intended for a mature audience even when a younger sibling's around?
    • Address Internet use. What's allowed and when? Do you supervise your kids when they're online or use parental controls? If so, teach your nanny.
    • Get more tips for Setting Guidelines for TV and Internet for Your Kids.

  4. Remember How to Talk
    Limit the amount of time your kid spends texting by establishing cell-free zones. Don't allow phones at the dinner table or ask that the cell stays out of sight in the morning hustle to school and work. Not only will this allow for more face-to-face socializing, but it'll limit your child's exposure to the potentially harmful radio waves emitted during calls.

    Insist that texting doesn't replace a phone call. If you ask your child to check in during a sleepover or teen to talk to you before staying out after dark, a phone call is the best way to confirm he or she is safe.

  5. Teach with the Carrot, Not the Stick
    Your reasons for wanting to curb your kids' electronic appetites are legitimate. But the tech-obsessed may not appreciate the stricter controls on their favorite pastimes. Keep the peace in your home by offering fun alternatives to video games and Facebook updates. When the weather cooperates, organize outdoor activities with the neighbors. Lather on some sunscreen and head to the pool. Or stay active (and tech-free) with these Fun Indoor Exercises for Kids.

Whatever your plans to coax your kids away from the screen, keep them fun and safe. And remember to enjoy the time together, text-, Twitter- and TV-free!

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