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Screen Time for Kids

posted May 3, 2011, 3:29 AM by Daryl du Plessis

Screen time is the amount of time spent using electronic entertainment such as TV’s, gaming consoles (e.g. Nintendo DS, iPods etc) and of course computers. There can be negative consequences related to excessive screen time and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting kids to 2 hours a day (as a general guide). Of course it’s not all bad news and there are constructive outcomes that can be gained from educational games and videos. The key issue is being able to regulate how much screen time kids have access to. Understandably parents these days will have a hard time managing to limit this (as kids often know more about technology than the parents) but there are ways of achieving this. This article focuses on tools you can use to limit screen time on computers. For a more in depth article on screen time in general take a look at the Mayo Clinic article referenced below.

Parental controls allow for monitoring of websites accessed, social networking, chats, searches and control over time allowed on the computer. In particular you can control how much time they can have per day and the times they are allowed to logon to the computer. There are free products that can be downloaded from the internet: Windows Live Essentials 2011 from Microsoft (a windows live account is required for the parent to configure the settings); and Norton Online Family, which requires registration with the website to configure the settings.  The software can be installed on multiple computers if required. It is a requirement that a separate profile (logon account) is created on the computer for each child (or you can create a single profile for all kids if you want the same settings to apply to all). Detailed instructions are available on the websites listed below. Once installed, the settings are enforced and kids will be warned 15 minutes before their time is up. This allows them to finish up what they are doing and sets expectations for logging off the computer.

An example of time restrictions allocated using Norton Online Family

Finally, I would recommend that before any restrictions are put in place, parents discuss what they are doing with their kids. This allows for an open dialog and allows kids to buy in on the process. For example, discussing suitable times that kids can access the computer and how much is allowed will prevent tantrums when the computer shuts them out.