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Posted on 05-06-2017

4 Ways to Set Digital Limits

Keeping the family in sync about the amount of digital media use is challenging. Here are some expert tips on maintaining a healthy balance.

Decide the ground rules — “Determine rules that make sense for everyone, and it’ll be much easier to get your kids on board, as they won’t see it as arbitrary when you tell them to put their devices away,” advises Pediatrician Corinn Cross. HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan offers a free interactive online tool to create a personalized Family Media Use Plan.

If kids don’t comply with rules, Kathy Marrocco suggests turning the Wi-Fi off at night or taking away devices altogether. But don’t leave a void, cautions Cross. Substitute fun, fulfilling activities.

Be wary of even “good” screen time — Test educational apps before approving them for kids to ensure their quality and so parents can help reinforce the learning, says Cross. She likes CommonSenseMedia.org for parental reviews and information to filter media of all kinds, from apps and games to TV shows.

Consider advocating for limiting screen time in local schools. “I asked my boys’ elementary school not to give them portable devices until they were 10,” says Nicholas Kardaras, the father of 9-year-old twins.

Watch out for rewards — Some screen time is more mesmerizing for kids than others, according to Kardaras, who treats such addictions. Most video games are designed on a variable reward schedule, similar to slot machines, which intentionally stimulates players to chase future rewards. Consider stricter limits on such media.

Play first in the real world — Because it reduces overall exercise, screen overuse can contribute to obesity. Cross recommends prioritizing exercising before daily allotted screen time; after being online, it’s more difficult to engage kids in physical activity.

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