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Screen time for kids: How much is too much?

Balancing screen time for children with other activities is a struggle for every parent. The benefits of the Internet and everything that comes with it are immeasurable, but too much screen time for children can also be destructive. The detriments of too much screen time can include behaviour problems, falling behind academically, disrupted sleep patterns or even violent outbursts. To avoid this, child psychologists recommend that parents impose ‘screen time routines’ and ‘screen timeout.’ This allows children to learn to expect when they will be allowed to watch TV or play video games and when that is inappropriate.

For example, parents may allow for children to access screens for a period of time after dinner, or only on weekends. It is recommended that children do not associate the early morning or screen time before bed, as this can be disruptive for sleep patterns. Children should learn that certain activities are strictly ‘no screens allowed’, such as meal times or in the car ride to and from school. Try to set daily limits for screens to encourage consistency. Make sure that screen time does not take precedence over or replace other important activities, such as exercise, outdoor activities, or reading.

With older children, it can be hard to limit their screen time, especially when much of their schoolwork will rely on access to a laptop and/or iPad. However, parents may want to try to encourage participation in screen time together. This could include watching a movie alongside their teenager or playing an online game. Research indicates that using apps or playing digital games together can be beneficial, as it encourages dialogue and conversation.

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