Cooped-Up Kids: Rules for Computer
By Carla Beuning
Kids ages 2-17 spend an average of 19 hours and 40 minutes
watching television each week. With rising concerns about
the diet and exercise habits of American kids, it’s
important to have a strategy when you decide to cut back
on television or computers. Kristine Berggren, author of
“Strategies for Stay-at-Home Parents” (Meadowbrook
Press) offers five good ways to help your family cut back
on “screen time.”
in mind that screen time is more than just TV time; computer
use can spiral out of control as well (there are even computer
addiction recovery camps for children). According to Berggren,
“It may seem counterintuitive to limit children’s
access to computers in a society that can barely remember
when a mouse was merely a rodent, but it’s important
to use computers in proportion to their true educational
or entertainment value.”
When cooped up inside during winter,
television and computer entertainment can be tempting. Use
these tips to help limit the amount of time your family
spends watching the infamous “tube” or surfing
the endless Internet.
Set a time limit for your child. Try
using a simple chart to track screen time. Get some stickers
and assign a value to each. (Let’s say each sticker
represents a half-hour.) Each week give your child the appropriate
number of stickers. Have your child put the stickers on
a chart as screen time is spent. When the stickers are gone,
no more screen time until next week.
Limit your own screen time. Set a
good example. Try taping your own favorite shows to watch
after your kids go to bed, and try not to aimlessly surf
the Internet too much.
Establish priorities. Homework, piano
practice and other responsibilities come before screen time.
Screen your child’s selections.
Try to watch a program or movie before you let your child
watch it so you can decide whether it’s appropriate.
Always check out computer games and Web sites before you
let your child see them as well.
Control your screen population. The fewer screens you have
in your house, the less important they’ll seem and
the less they’ll tempt you. Figure out the minimum
number of screens that would serve your family’s needs.
Of course, remember that time spent
doing homework on the computer would not count against your
child’s limits,” says Berggren. “Nobody
is denying that computers and television, when used correctly,
have educational possibilities. But practicing moderation
can be very healthy.”