Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 03:22 pm

Parents play a strong role in guiding the media use of their children…

For children younger than two years of age, screen time of any amount is not recommended. For children aged two to four years, screen time should be limited to no more than one hour each day. Children aged five to 17 years should limit recreational screen time to a maximum of two hours daily.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking there is no way you have the mental stamina required to achieve these targets, don’t fret. There are a number of strategies parents can use:

1. Set screen time limits

It’s helpful to have a family media plan that includes a screen-time limit for each child. Setting limits will help to set children’s expectations.

Research has shown that when parents set these limits, there is a significant reduction in their overall screen time. Of course, successful implementation requires consistency over time so children and adolescents develop a clear understanding of screen time rules.

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2. Keep meals media-free

Meal time is the perfect time to connect with your children, learn about their day and share stories over food. Unplugging during meal time is helpful.

Research shows that children who watch television during meals end up with more screen time overall. A 2011 study showed that TV viewing during dinner was associated with an increase of 69 minutes per day on weekdays and 122 minutes on weekends.

Ditching devices while dining has the added bonus of improving dietary patterns. Research shows that children who use screens during meals consume less healthy food options such as fruits and vegetables, and more snack foods and sugar sweetened beverages.

For parents, removing your mobile media device from the dinner table shows your family that you are “plugged in” to the conversation. A 2015 study showed that when people brought a cell phone to the table, even when not in use, it resulted in a reduced quality of conversation and undermined the depth of connection.

3. Turn off so you can tune in

The degree to which parents use their own screen based device is associated with their children’s screen time. Avoiding screen use while engaging with your children is a great way to promote healthy behaviour.

Not only will this modelling help to reduce your children’s and adolescents’ overall screen time, but it prioritises face-to-face interactions through conversation and active play.

READ MORE: 9 Easy screen time limits to set NOW (for you and your kids)

4. Don’t use screens to control behaviour

It is tempting to use screen time as a means of controlling a child’s behaviour because it tends to result in an immediate response. However, this may cause an unintentional increase in screen use over the long term.

An example of this would be providing screen time as a reward for good behaviour or taking it away as a punishment for bad behaviour. This can cause children to put a high value on screen time, and desire more of it.

5. Bedrooms are for recharging bodies

Keep mobile devices and charging stations out of the bedrooms! Teenagers need between eight to 10 hours of sleep each night for proper growth and development, and to recharge themselves for another day. Studies have shown that bedroom use of mobile phones and other devices have been displacing sleep time in the adolescent population.

This displacement of sleep time decreases self-esteem and coping skills among our adolescents, and reduces their ability to manage behavioural impulses. Keeping devices out of bedrooms improves sleep quality and health among children and adolescents.

Parents play a strong role in guiding the media use of their children. Allowing children and teenagers opportunities to explore their natural environment away from screen-based devices promotes active play and creativity, and helps develop healthy behaviours now and in the future.

Lisa Tang, PhD student in Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph and Jess Haines, Associate Professor of Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.