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Win The Screen Time Battle With Your Kids Once And For All

The world our children are growing up in is so different from the world of our own youth, and undoubtedly the single biggest change is the advent of the personal digital device - a smartphone or tablet which now seems to be the permanent accessory of every child. Parents now face a daily battle the siren call of social media, online games and the stars of YouTube, and experts are warning that the consequences span everything from poor concentration levels to social isolation and exposure to adult material. So, how do you manage children's screen time without creating a battleground? How can we chase our children off social media when our own work and social lives are so caught up in it? How do we limit screen time in practice when homework is often done online now?

Timing Is Everything

There are no current official guidelines about the number of time kids should spend online in a day. Not all usage is bad, but parents need to be aware of how kids are using their time. Look for the best child tracking app to ensure you understand what sites they are spending time on. Try to keep most of their screen use in a public area and watch for any signs of social withdrawal to flag up potential issues. Rather than the amount of time, which can be hard to agree on when so much is online including homework tasks, aim for times of day when it's acceptable to use screens and when it isn't - for example, excluding bedtimes, meal times and before school.

Creating New Rituals

Most people agree that one of the biggest issues around phone use is how they can disrupt sleeping patterns, with the blue light screens emit disrupting the production of melatonin, the hormone that triggers our sleep cycle. If screens have become a bedtime crutch - for adults as much as children - it's time to create a new create a new ritual based around bath time and a storybook. Have family games on a Sunday rather than slumping in front of screens. Social media channels are specifically designed to demand more attention and become addictive, so make sure you don't allow screens for at least an hour prior to bedtime.

Dealing With Conflict

If you haven't had any sort of limits on screen time before, then be prepared for some conflict when you bring them in. Don't allow yourself to get angry - stay cool-headed and explain your reasons in simple terms that your children will understand ‘we don't have screens at night because it affects our sleep’. It helps to pre-warn children rather than suddenly taking devices away. Tell them they have to give minutes left and they will know what to expect. Firmness and consistency in the face of tears and tantrums can be hard, but ultimately it's the only thing that will work.

Guide Their Use

There is no manual for navigating the online world, but as parents we do have a responsibility to teach good digital behavior - from making it clear to our kids that no one posts about the bad bits of life and that photos can be edited to encouraging them not to join in with online bullying or feeling able to leave group chats that get out of hand. Although schools have got better about educating children on online safety, parents need to support this at home and reinforce key messages to keep things consistent.

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