How to manage your family’s screen time

Screens have no direct toxic effect on children. So it is perfectly fine, for example, to reward them with screens once they have done their homework. It is more a question of what it is displacing. Ask yourself: is everybody’s screen time under control? Also ask if it is interfering with other social interactions; perhaps activities you may want to do as a family? If it is, then think about reducing it.

Have a plan and stick to it, so that everybody understands when they’re allowed screen time and when they should stop. Think about your own media use, as it is important that everyone, including the adults in the home, adhere to these agreed boundaries. For instance, if you’ve decided as a family that you won’t have any screens at the dinner table, you all have to abide by that.

Prioritising face-to-face interaction, especially before children go to sleep, can make bedtime easier, as they tend to feel more relaxed.

If the child is displaying defiant behaviour around screens by, for example, refusing to stop watching and come to dinner, that points to a wider parenting issue of applying boundaries.

Dr Max Davie is an officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

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