Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Limiting Screen Time IS Important

By Christine Weinzapfel Hayden, LCSW

Today, the recommended screen time for children is two hours a day. Children under the age of 2 should not have any screen time.

Let us all take a second to laugh at those two hours because if we’re being honest, our children spend that much time on iPads at school each day, which means their screen time when they get home is zero minutes. 

The reality is that everywhere we take our children, they are exposed to screens in some way. Our cars, waiting rooms, restaurants and so many more places come complete with video screens or tablets for your children to borrow while they wait. So what can we do to limit our children’s screen time the best that we can and keep everyone’s sanity?

Let’s start by discussing WHY limiting screen time is important. When our children are looking at screens, they are sedentary. Universal access to screens is relatively new, so there is not a lot of research showing the results of screen time. What we do know is that kids move less and they have less in-person interactions with peers and family. They lose the ability to build on their social and interpersonal skills.

The suggestion is not that you take screens from your child completely; rather, take responsibility for creating rules and boundaries with technology. Set time limits, encourage your child to attend social events, require dinner as a family with no phones or screens.

It is very important that you are aware of what your child is doing online. What are they watching, who are they interacting with, what types of things are they posting to social media? You might feel like you’re infringing on your child’s freedom by monitoring their online activity, but it actually helps you keep them safe and ensures that they are being responsible. Be sure you have access to all of their accounts, and require them to have all social media accounts set to private. Have them play video games in family spaces or require doors to remain open. This will allow you to see what they’re doing and playing, as well as hear the conversations they’re having with friends while playing.

Be aware of what your children are watching on YouTube as well. Watching videos is an incredibly popular time-killer, especially for younger children. Even the use of YouTube Kids does not ensure that all content is appropriate for your child. Watch these videos with them or be in the room with them while they’re watching videos. This allows you to hear the content of the videos and the language used.

The use of screens has become increasingly popular and is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. The task here is not to eliminate screens from your child’s life, rather to be diligent in monitoring their online activity.

Christine Weinzapfel Hayden is Youth First social worker at Corpus Christi School in Evansville and St. Philip School in Posey County.