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Does your little one cry when you take away the iPad? Is there always a constant battle over spending time on gadgets? Are your children demanding their very own phones at an early age?

Parenting is tough enough without the issues brought by technology as well. In a day and age where it is almost impossible to even imagine a world without our smartphones and technological gadgets, it is now becoming increasingly difficult for parents to limit screen time for their children.

A lot of research has been done on the harmful effects of excessive screen time. Linked to impaired cognitive function, sleep disorders and a very short attention span, increased amount of screen time is known to damage the development of the brain.

So how much time is too much when it comes to screen time? The World Health Organisations has conducted exhaustive studies and has a bit of useful advice.

Infants who are less than 1 year old should be “physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.”

The WHO recommends that screen time is not recommended for infants of this age. They also should not be restrained in prams, strollers, high chairs or strapped to the back for more than one hour at a time. The WHO recommends that infants between 0 to 3 months of age should get 14-17 hours of quality sleep, while infants between 4 to 11 months of age should get 12-16 hours.

Screen time is not recommended for one year olds, according to WHO. As for 2 year olds up to the age of 4, the WHO recommends a maximum of 1 hour a day of screen time – less is better. 11-14 hours of quality sleep is recommended for toddlers between 1-2 years of age, while 3 and 4 year olds should get 10-13 hours of good quality sleep.

That is a pointer in the right direction for parents but there are a whole lot of other routines you can create in order to enforce the screen time.

Screen management is very important and a lot of parents are now putting down rules and guidelines for themselves and their families when it comes to it. We have put together some broad guidelines for you to follow:

 

Be a role model

It is all good to tell your children to put down their gadgets but how easy is it for you, to also put down your phone or resist the urge of looking at an email? For us to set screen time rules inside the house, we need to practice the same. Be a role model to your children. Our children are always observing and learning from us and so the next time when we pick up that phone to look at a message or answer work calls while at the dinner table, remember that we are setting an example for our children.

 

Family meals together

Meals in front of a TV is something that we as parents encourage quite often. It may be easier but eating a meal together with the family gives children a sense of routine and provides them with some dedicated family time which they know they will have to invest in. Meal times with the family can be a good time to share all that has happened throughout the day and also a great way to put away those technological gadgets. A ‘no phone’ time, dinners or breakfast over the weekend eaten together, not only fosters happy and healthy children but also encourages family togetherness.

 

Introduction of a family media time

Every house must have its own media plan. Carefully discussed and designed with the whole family, this plan must chalk out everything when it comes to the use of media. This would include the concept of tech-free zones in the house, where technology or the use of it will be completely banned. It can also include the amount of screen time on a daily basis and also on weekends. The dining room or bedroom for example, can come under the tech free zones in a house.

 

Chalk in family time together

At the end of a tiring week, the best way to unwind and bond with our little ones at the same time, is to spend some quality time with them. And what better way to do it, than to schedule some family time with them every weekend. It would be a good idea to also introduce the concept of family ‘game nights’ back into the picture. A great way to have some fun together as a family and to ease a bit of the daily stress, a board game with your child can make a huge difference.

At the end of the day, whether it’s a walk together or a cook-out session or something as simple as doing chores together, we will never regret investing in our relationship with them.

Don’t be afraid to say no. It is crucial when it comes to setting down guidelines and we as parents, must never be afraid to set limits. Look at it from a long-term perspective and ignore the angry looks that are passed in your direction.

Please remember, each family is different and the rules set in each house are also not the same as another. As long as the family is united in the desire to spend time together and bond with each other on a regular basis, it is fine. It is all about finding the right balance between screen time and family time and sticking to that balance wherever it is possible.

However, in the process, don’t forget to laugh, smile and have loads of fun.