Developing tweens' healthy use of screen time

In today’s world it seems there’s a screen or device everywhere you look.
Young boy on tablet

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By Michelle Balani

In today’s world it seems there’s a screen or device everywhere you look, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests limiting screen time to no more than one or two hours per day, as studies have shown that “excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.” New York City-based teacher Anne Harlam says that this is important because children need opportunities to use their imaginations through hands-on creative play. While eliminating all electronic usage is almost impossible, you can help address this issue by establishing rules and choosing screen activities carefully.

Encourage educational use of devices and encourage your child’s interests through media. During the late elementary years, you will notice that your child’s natural talents are beginning to emerge, and electronic devices can help him develop these traits. It may be as simple as having a movie night and choosing a film that includes the subject of his interests. Or you can host a dance party and let your child create a special dance number or play the drums. If your child likes art, show him how to find out more about famous artists online. If your child hasn’t yet developed one talent above others, help him explore his interests by reading books together on subjects that he likes or finding museums that might spark his imagination and interest.

Set limits on electronic devices. One area where accountability comes up in this age period is around the use of digital devices. At some point, your child will ask for her own phone or tablet, and if you decide to give her one, you may want to set up clear conditions about using these devices. Once you establish these rules, make sure to follow through with consequences if they are broken. School counselor Sharon F. Sevier says that having access to electronic devices is a privilege and that if your child doesn’t use technology appropriately, you may want to take it away for a short period.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Anne Morrison, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Lycée Français de New York; Thomas Hoerr, Emeritus Head of School, New City School; and Sharon Sevier, School Counselor, Missouri School Counselor Association.