The internet is pretty much a staple to everyone’s lives these days, especially for the younger generation. They use it for almost everything (i.e. mingling with friends, playing online games, doing school works). With it being their number one source of entertainment and information, falling down the rabbit hole that is the World Wide Web is almost inevitable. In fact, one study revealed that teens spend an average of 9 hours in front of a gadget every day, while tweens aged 8 to 12 years old spend an average of 6 hours. With this, we cannot deny that internet overuse and addiction is indeed a problem that we can no longer trivialize and just ignore. Many researches have already proven that too much internet could affect a child’s development, mental health, and wellbeing negatively. As a parent, it is your duty to make sure that your kid isn’t wasting their life away by being a slave to technology. So, the question is: how much is too much?
How much screen time should you allow your children to have on technology?
It depends on the age and needs of your kid. The young ones or those children under 6 years old should not be spending too much time on the internet, and definitely not without adult supervision. Internet overuse during the early stages of development could have negative implications on their health and wellbeing. On the other hand, teenagers’ screen time must be moderated but not insufficient. Believe it or not, teenagers deserve a healthy amount of screen time since technology is mostly needed by them for school and socialization. However, most of the time, teens are towing the thin line between “healthy” and “excessive”. It’s a challenge for both them and their parents’ to find the equilibrium between what is needed and what is not. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using gadgets, as long as it’s in moderation. You need to help your kids learn how to control their internet use, not the other way round. Luckily, this article is here to be your guide on how to do just that.
How much time on the internet should your kids have?
How much screen time should you allow your children to have? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a guideline that advises how much screen time a child must have depending on their age and needs. It suggested that:
- infants under 18 months old should have no screen time at all
- kids 18 months to 2 years old must only have access to child-friendly and educational apps or programs under adult supervision
- kids that are between the ages of 2 and 5 should only have one hour or screen time per day
- for those aged 6 years old and above, internet use must always be moderated
For teenagers, it is slightly more complicated. With the education system warming up more and more to technology, most of their assignments and school works requires the use of gadgets and computer. The use of social media sites are also essential for socialization and “staying in the loop”. It is then the parents’ responsibility to figure out how to set limits without being too controlling, just like it is the teen’s duty to strike a balance between using the internet for information and casual recreation without letting it become a distraction.
What are the negative effects of internet overuse?
Through the years, the growing dependence of the youth on their gadgets and gizmos had become such a huge problem that the American Psychiatric Association has already added Internet Addiction Disorder as a kind of mental disorder to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. Spending too much time in front of a computer, a smart phone, or a tablet has a lot of negative repercussions on the growth and holistic welfare of your children. The following are just some of them:
- Social Isolation
We cannot deny that the emergence of the internet truly revolutionized the way we communicate. Its various features helped us talk or chat with other people despite the barriers of language and distance. Arguably, although it helps us connect to those who are far, it disconnects us to those who are near. Oftentimes, we become so transfixed on our devices that we don’t even notice that we are already blatantly ignoring the people around us. This type of behavior will eventually lead to social isolation. We need to remind our children or even ourselves from time to time that personal relationships are a hundred percent more important than superficial online ones.
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Unsurprisingly, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end could be an indication of a sedentary lifestyle. Internet addicts usually go through lengthy periods of physical inactivity throughout the day, making them more prone to various sedentary diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more.
- Academic Decline
If utilized properly, the internet has the potential to be such a powerful tool for learning. It could give us access to a vast world of information with just the click of our fingertips. Unfortunately, most of us take this feature for granted. For some students, instead of using the World Wide Web to expand their knowledge, they use it as a way to distract themselves from actually studying. Instead of using it to research assignments and review future lessons, they use it to play games or check on the social media accounts. As a result, internet addicts usually experience a form of academic decline in the form of lower grades and decreased productivity.
- Sleep Deprivation
Gadgets like smartphones, tablets, or PCs usually emit blue light which could trick the eye into thinking it is still daylight. This is the reason why some people find it harder to fall asleep when they’re currently on their devices. Top that all of with the wide variety of stimulating content that the internet offers and it’s no more a wonder why internet addicts suffer so much insomnia or sleep deprivation.
- Anxiety and Depression
All of the aforementioned effects are signs of a much more serious problem posed by too much exposure to the internet, which is anxiety and depression. Lacking nurturing personal relationships, too much physical inactivity, failing in school, and inability to sleep are all indications of an unhealthy mental state.
If you see any of these signs manifesting on your kids behavior, then perhaps it’s time to stage an intervention. Your child may or may not be an internet addict.
How do you lessen your children’s time on the internet?
In order to ensure that your child has a healthy relationship with technology, here are some tips or rules that you can apply within your household:
- Lead by example.
As their parent, your children are going to look up to you more than anyone. In a way, their behavior would mirror whatever they see in you and their environment. This is why your kids are more likely to stop wasting too much on the internet if they see that you’re also doing the same. Show them that it is possible to enjoy and be happy even without the aid of gadgets.
Enforcing limits regarding how much time you children are allowed to use the internet could also be an effective way to discourage internet overuse. However, make sure that their limits is something that the two of you will agree upon. You can’t make that decision alone, for it would affect them too, more so than you. Keep in mind, especially if your son or daughter is already in teen years, that they also need the internet for doing school works and all that. By having a conversation before taking action, you can make sure your limits are realistic and unrestrictive.
Show them other ways to have fun.
The reason why so many kids nowadays are so attached to the internet is because it is their main source of entertainment. So to help ease their way into detaching from it, you need to show them that using it is not the only way to have fun! Encourage them to read a book, join a club, go to museums, bond with friends, and more.
Use parental controls.
Your computers are equipped with built-in parental controls. Parental controls can help you personally modify the amount of time that your child can use the computer. This could be a very useful feature if you know how to properly utilize them.
Below are the instructions on how to toggle this feature for both Windows and Mac users:
The first thing you need to do is to sign in to your Microsoft account. Next, you have to open the “Settings”, click on “Accounts”, go to “Family & other people”, and then choose “Add a family member”. Assist your child in setting up their own account by helping them fill out the fields shown with the necessary details. Afterwards, go to the “Screen Time” option under their account. There, you’ll be free to decide your kids’ “Daily allowance” or the number of hours that they are allowed to use the computer in each day. You are also given the chance to appoint the specific times that they can have access to it.
For Mac users, you’d have to go to the main menu, click on “System Preferences”, then tap the “Parental Controls”. Set up a new user account for your child by indicating their age range, full name, account name, and password. Once you’re done doing that, go back to “Parental Control” section, find their username, the click on the “Time” tab. There, you can set time limits for weekdays and weekends by ticking on the box that says “Limit weekday / weekend use to”. On the “Bedtime” section, you can specify the times when they can’t gain access to the computer. Make sure to tap the padlock on the bottom part of the window to lock your current settings.
The internet is what we make it. Whether we use it as a tool for development and progress or as a catalyst for retrogression and decline, it’s up to us. That’s why it is so important to teach your kids the value of self-discipline and control. Everything is better if it’s in moderation.