Managing Screen Time – December 2017

Does it seem like your children are constantly using technology…between the games they are playing; videos they are watching on their tablet, computer or cell phone; and the ongoing texts and snapchat posts they are receiving?

According to Beverly Anderson, executive director for Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations in downtown Milwaukee, on Milwaukee’s southside, and in Oak Creek and West Allis/Wauwatosa, “We live in a technology-driven society, and it is a great thing when used in moderation and with caution. However, parents need to be setting rules and guidelines regarding how much screen time is acceptable and where it can be used.”

So how can you keep your children from getting into trouble with the technology they are using? Anderson has these useful tips:

Keep It Out In the Open

Anderson says that, if your children are using electronic devices in their bedrooms, you should move them into a common area such as a family room. “Children will be much less likely to look at things online that they shouldn’t, if they know you might walk in the room at any moment.”

Likewise, your children should be required to show you what websites they are visiting and what social media they are using. If you find they aren’t doing this, check the device’s browsing history. If it is cleared, confront your children. Anderson also recommends setting up the parental controls that most digital devices have to prevent exposure to inappropriate material.

Develop Rules

Anderson says that it’s important for parents to decide together what is acceptable when it comes to electronic usage. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children have two or less hours of screen time a day, and that children shut down their electronic devices at least one hour prior to going to bed to ensure the best night’s sleep possible. “Set rules and make sure your children understand the consequences of breaking those rules,” says Anderson. “If you have a rule that there are no phone calls after 9 p.m., then the same rule should be applied to texts for the entire family.”

Anderson also recommends you establish that, as a parent, you can check your children’s electronic devices at any time. If your children are using social media, they need to be able to tell you who they are communicating with on these sites. They should also be taught to only interact with people they know.

Likewise, children need to understand that what they post online is available for the world to see, and often it is permanent. This means it could impact future friendships, continuing education plans, and job opportunities.

“Cyber bullying is also an issue parents need to be aware of,” adds Anderson. “It is very real, and as a parent, you need to establish up front that it won’t be tolerated. If your children see cyber bullying occurring online, they should report it to you.”

Educate Yourself

Finally, Anderson says that you can’t be naïve. She recommends that you take control of the technology your children use. Visit the websites your children are frequenting. If you aren’t comfortable with them, tell your children they can’t use them. Talk to other parents about how they handle technology usage with their children. And, maintain open communication with your children about the technology they are using.

“If you hear your children talking to other kids about something you are unaware of, Google it,” adds Anderson. “It’s a simple, yet often overlooked, step in learning what’s out there on the Internet.”

“Technology is not going away,” says Anderson. “So the best thing you can do is make sure that you incorporate it into your family’s life in a positive manner.”

Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.

Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers free Parenting Talks and other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations in downtown Milwaukee, on Milwaukee’s southside, and in Oak Creek and West Allis/Wauwatosa. The agency’s main office is located at 1496 South 29th Street, Milwaukee. For more information, please call 414-643-5070.