A couple of weeks ago we dealt with content of video games here. If you missed it, check out that important information about monitoring what your kids are playing. It’s also important to supervise all computer screen time.
Make sure all the computers to which your youngster has access are in open places in the house. Search the browser history at regular intervals, and make sure you have his passwords for all social media accounts so you can check that activity. Let him know ahead of time that this is one of the rules for the privilege of using the computer and smart phone. Take a look at texts and other accounts on her phone, and remind her of safety rules:
- Never give out personal information online or over the phone.
- Never assume that someone you “meet” online is giving you accurate information, and never arrange to meet such a person face to face.
- If you get concerned about someone contacting you, tell your parent without fear of judgment.
- Never use your phone or computer for pornography (especially child pornography, which is illegal), sexting (a form of pornography), sending any inappropriate information, or for hurting or bullying someone else. If you receive such content inform a parent or teacher immediately.
In addition to content, you should be aware of time. Screen time of any kind (television, movies, computer, video games) means fewer hours are available for physical activity, face-to-face interaction, reading and homework. Screen time isn’t necessarily bad in itself, but you should monitor the amount of time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics gives great advice about video games in this online article, including the recommendation to limit video game time to one hour per day. The same goes for other types of screen time. If your teen or child is spending much more time than that in front of a screen (unless, of course, it’s for school), engage him in conversation about what other activities might take the place of some gaming hours. Allow her to choose from a list of fun ways to spend her time.
- Reading. If your children don’t like to read, read to or with them. Pick an age-appropriate book and take turns reading pages or chapters. Bedtime is great for this.
- Physical activity. One of the problems of screen time is its sedentary nature. Inactivity leads to weight gain and all sorts of accompanying health issues. Get your youngster involved in a team or individual sport. Go walking or swimming. Shoot hoops in the driveway or play catch in the backyard.
- Board games. Remember Candy Land? Connect Four? Pictionary? Games are widely available and great fun. They afford great opportunities for interaction, and for learning life skills like winning, losing, and cooperation.
- Face time. Not the phone app, the real face time. Find something you and your teen can share and enjoy: cooking, eating, hiking, stamp collecting, whatever works for you. Time invested is time well-spent. You will reap the rewards in getting to know your child better, and they will reap the rewards in knowing you.
- Channel that interest in computers to online learning games, or learning video games. Check out learning games on Amazon, or try one of the websites like Adapted Mind, where you can get a 30 day free trial of games for grades 1-6 (if you continue on with membership there’s a monthly fee).
Bottom line: be in charge of what your children do, even if they aren’t always in favor of your monitoring and limits. It’s your job, and you are aiding in their full development.
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