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Kids and Smartphones: Balancing Screen Time With Safety

Today’s kids would spend all day on their devices if they were allowed to do so, but that’s not healthy or safe. It’s unfortunate, but predators regularly get in contact with children online through various apps and websites and lure them out of their home or find them at school.

If you’re a parent, you can’t spend all day with your child to monitor their screen time, especially when they’re in school. You also can’t take away their phone because they might need to call you in an emergency. Thankfully, there are several ways you can balance their screen time while keeping them safe.

1. Use parental controls

No matter how much you think you trust your child, never trust them with a phone that isn’t protected with parental controls. Just like you wouldn’t give them a brand new iPhone without a protective case that withstands drops, they shouldn’t have free access to their phone at a young age, says i-blason.com.

Parental controls vary based on the app and phone, but you can limit screen time, limit or prevent purchases, block certain apps and websites, see what websites they’re visiting, and more. If your child has an Apple device, there are built-in parental controls for iPhones and iPads that run iOS 12 and later. For Android devices, Google makes a free app called Family Link.

2. Set and enforce limits

It’s easy to tell your child they can’t use their device after 7:00 p.m., but it’s harder to enforce that. However, if you don’t enforce the rules you set, they’re going to take advantage of that. They might ask for five more minutes every day for a week until you get tired of it and let them use their device until 8:00 p.m. Then they’ll start asking for five more minutes again, and you’ll be stuck dealing with tantrums if you try to take away their device. At that point, it’s too late.

Too much screen time can have detrimental effects on your child’s health, including:

·  Disrupted sleep

·  Obesity

·  Behavioral problems

·  Poor academic performance

·  Desensitization to violence

This includes time spent playing video games and watching television. Any device your child stares at for long periods of time has the potential to disrupt their sleep cycle and keep them inactive.

Don’t let your child push you into letting them use their device past the set time. Consider it an opportunity to teach them how to manage their time so they can do all the things they want to do before their screen time ends. For instance, they might like to draw or write and chat with friends. Having time limits will teach them how to prioritize their activities.

3. Talk to your child about cyberbullies

Cyberbullying is a massive problem and it’s not going to disappear anytime soon. Your child will be exposed to people online who seem to enjoy being mean to others. These people aren’t just their peers – the internet is full of them.

There have been many tragic situations where kids have hurt themselves or even killed themselves over something a cyberbully did, and their parents had no idea it was happening. Many kids don’t tell their parents when they’re being treated poorly at school or online.

You can’t stop cyberbullies, but you can protect your child from being significantly impacted by this behavior by having discussions. Help your child understand that people who act this way online are not that brave in person. They’re hiding behind the safety of anonymity and are just looking for a reaction. Most of all, cyberbullies are usually extremely hurt individuals who are expressing misplaced emotions and it’s truly never personal.

Build up your child’s self-esteem to help them brush off the incidents of cyberbullying they’ll encounter online. It’s going to happen. The only thing you can do is give them the tools to ride it out.

4. Lead by example

If you’re constantly on your phone or computer and never take breaks, or you spend more time on your devices than you do interacting with your kids, they’re going to notice. Set a good example for your kids by practicing what you preach. You might have a later bedtime than your child, but don’t let them see you on your laptop at 2:00 a.m.

Open communication makes a world of difference

Your child should know the rules you set are for their own safety. You don’t have to scare them, but make sure they know the dangers of talking to strangers online and encourage them to tell you if they have a suspicious experience. By fostering open communication, you can help your child navigate their online life and empower them to make smart choices.

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