NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For millions of kids, winter vacation means a lot more screen time – and if they get new devices or games as gifts, children could easily spend hours a day online.
CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez had some tips Tuesday on balancing what kids want and what parents expect.
As a mother of six children ages 7 to 29, Dawn Herron has dealt for decades with the same issue. With her older kids, the problem was watching too much TV.
Now, she said, “After school, they come home, and to them, downtime is hopping on a tablet.”
And if it is a battle during the school year, skirmishes over screen time during vacations can be an all-out war.
“Kids will be out of their routine, and it could be really easy for families to fall into the trap of kids just wanting to be on their screen,” said Dr. Jean Moorjani of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando.
So Moorjani has some tips. First, she said, do not set time limits just for the sake of doing so.
“It’s not just the amount of time a child spends on a screen,” she said. “We have to actually look at the context of what they’re doing with those screens.”
Not all screen time is bad, Moorjani emphasized. There are some 80,000 educational apps that can help children maintain things like reading and mathematical skills while away from school.
But make sure you set up media-free zones in your house – something the Herrons insist on.
“No screens in the bed, no screens at dinnertime,” said Chip Herron. “Screens are off when we say they’re off, and if we ever have company over, screens are off as well.”
Finally, if you do not want your kids to sit and look at a screen all day, give them something to do. A little planning now can go a long way for months to come.
“I keep them busy, and I think that’s part of the key is to keep them exhausted, so to speak,” Dawn Herron said.
You can also set weekly goals, such as covering so many miles on an outdoor bike or treadmill when it is cold outside. Basketball tournaments can also be an option – because the more kids are exercising, the less they’re on screens.
“Even though kids may not act like it, they actually crave and they need those limits,” Moorjani said.
Another tip is for parents to be good role models. If your kids see you on the computer or phone at home, they are more likely to mimic the behavior.
If possible, wait until they are asleep before having your own screen time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crunched the numbers on screen time for kids ages 8 to 18. According to their statistics, kids ages 11 to 14 are spending the most time in front of screens.
The kids in that age range get about nine hours of screen time daily, and about five in front of a TV.