For many parents, January is the perfect time to implement a new and improved set of screen-time rules. They key is to ensure those well-intentioned guidelines make it past February. So how can you create a set of limits and expectations that actually works? Here are innovative ways to help ensure your screen-time ground rules stick, throughout the entire year.
A new approach to New Year’s resolutions for kids
While it’s still important to manage how much time your child spends on their screens, other factors are equally important. Parents need to also consider:
- What content your child is consuming online
- What time of day your child is on screens
- What other activities are being squeezed out by excessive screen time
Consider this: For the average American, in the amount of time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books. Here’s the math to prove it.
New Year’s resolutions for kids: Create a completely tech-free dinner table
Making sure smartphones, tablets and computers aren’t invited to the dinner table is critical for parents with children of all ages. The benefits of family dinners is enormous: Research shows that regular family meals help improve academic performance in children, increase self-esteem and can contribute to a greater sense of resilience. See more of the incredible benefits here.
But there’s another benefit to the family meal: According to research, shared meals may help teens avoid or better deal with cyberbullying. Researchers surveyed more than 18,000 12 to 18-year-olds in the U.S. and discovered that those who regularly had dinner with their families four or more times a week experienced reduced effects of cyberbullying compared to teens who had less frequent shared meals.
Extra Credit: Eat dinner at the same time. One study found that eating dinner at a consistent time was linked with improved eating habits, weight and body image.
New Year’s resolutions for kids: Play an app, website or video game with your child
Sharing screen time with your child can be incredibly beneficial for both parents and kids. Researchers at the Arizona State University discovered that parents and kids sharing the video game experience cultivated greater family bonding, learning and well-being.
“Parents miss a huge opportunity when they walk away from playing video games with their kids,” says one of the study’s researchers, Elisabeth Hayes. “Often parents don’t understand that many video games are meant to be shared and can teach young people about science, literacy and problem solving.”
Another study shows that girls in particular benefit from shared screen time with mom and dad. Fascinating research from Brigham Young University has shown that tween and teen girls in particular benefit from playing video games with mom and dad. In a study of 11 to 16 year olds that involved 287 families, it was discovered that girls behave better, feel more connected to their families and have improved mental health when they co-play video games with parents. But the research came with a huge caveat: Those amazing benefits were only seen when the video games were age appropriate.
New Year’s resolutions for kids: Use technology to do good
While parents may be inundated with information about all of the dangers associated with screen time, technology also offers ways for kids and teens to help others in amazing ways. “Pro-social” content is an emerging class of websites and apps that offer ways to help others, work towards a good cause and see things from other people’s perspectives. Research has shown that exposure to pro-social content can improve kids’ moods, sleep and helpful behavior. Here are some of our top picks:
Charity Miles is a free running app that tracks miles logged and then donates money to more than 40 charities.
Donate a Photo is a free Johnson & Johnson app that makes a $1 donation for each photo you “donate.” Once users (13 and older) pick a cause, they can share up to one snap per day. That’s a $365 annual contribution to the charity of their choice!
Pocket Rice lets kids test their knowledge while helping to fight world hunger. Multiple choice quizzes can be adjusted for age. Then with each correct answer, the site’s sponsors donate 10 grains of rice, resulting in millions of donated grains each month.
New Year’s resolutions for kids: Make devices off a night non-negotiable
Have you been lax about letting your kids have smartphones and tablets in bed after lights out? Make sure that managing late-night screen time is one of your primary new year’s resolutions for your kids. Late-night device use is largely blamed for the sleep deprivation epidemic being experienced around the world.
Study after study confirms that after-hours screen time compromises both the quality and quantity of sleep that teens get, putting both physical and mental health at risk. A study by the Journal of Sleep Medicine involving more than 370,000 adolescents focused on how much sleep teens were getting between 2009 and 2015, a period during which technology became part of almost every teen’s life. Researchers reported a “seismic shift” in teen sleep patterns, resulting in the fact that fewer than 15% percent of teens are getting the required 8 to 8.5 hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Experts agree that screens should go off at least one hour before bed. More tips on protecting teen sleep can be found here.
A recently published study involving 47,000 Australian children found that sleep was the biggest indicator of happiness. Children were twice as likely to report feeling happy lots of the time if they were getting sufficient sleep.