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06/20/2018 12:00 AM

Tips for Managing Electronic Device Usage

Parents are getting pressure to supply children with electronic devices at earlier and earlier ages. While there are certainly benefits in these devices, the potential pitfalls are important to explore.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following amount of screen time for various ages:

0-24 months

– NO screen time.  Brains are not developed enough to process sounds and images of electronic media and can be overstimulating.

2-5 years old

– 1 hour a day but only high quality programming such as Sesame Street as children in this age group cannot process ads and find most programming overstimulating.

6 years old and older

– parents should determine the amount of screen time but limit entertainment viewing to less than 2 hours per day.

Here are some guidelines to keep you and your children safe and connected to each other:

Have the family decide the rules of electronics usage for different parts of the day.  A Media Use Plan can be helpful and can be found at

Be a role model for your children.  Eye contact creates bonding and shows you are interested in what people are saying.  If you are with your children, put down the phone.

Adapt a "no electronics policy" when having meals together, driving in the car. Be sure to identify and prioritize "no electronics" activities. This will allow for person to person conversations and connection.

Become curious about what your child is viewing. When you show an interest, you open the lines of communication. Your children will be much more likely to come to you in the future with any questions/concerns arising from their Internet use.

Consider putting a parental control program on your child's devices to limit daily allotted time, and block Internet sites that could potentially be inappropriate for children. The website Common Sense Media is a wonderful source for parents to determine whether various media are appropriate for their child.

Review with all children ways to remain safe while on the Internet.  Remind children to never give out their personal information such as name, age, address, etc. without a parent's consent.

Remind teens that what they post on the Internet is out there for the world to see, including college admissions, employers, peers, and family.

For teens, caution against the use of pornography viewing. It is important that both boys and girls understand that while their curiosity is normal, most pornography is not a good depiction of real life sexuality or intimacy.

We know that poor sleep is correlated to increased depression and anxiety. Therefore, it is very important that children and adults get off their devices at least one hour before bedtime (and keep them off) to foster healthy sleep habits. Consider having a family charging station outside the bedroom/sleeping areas.

Have ongoing, age-appropriate conversations about what it means to be respectful while online, how to recognize cyberbullying and the risks associated with "sexting."