The rapid development of computers and the Internet has parents and nannies asking the age-old question, ‘How much screen time is too much?’ The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that children spend no more than 1 to 2 hours per day watching television and using the computer.
Here are some tips to assist you in introducing computer use into your child’s daily routine:
- Start monitoring your child’s computer use at a young age. Surf online with your child so that you can teach Internet etiquette firsthand; this may require you to become more computer literate. Good habits should be developed before a child starts school as it will be more difficult to enforce restrictions at an older age.
- As a role model to the child, it may be necessary for you to make modifications to your own habits.
- Keep your computer in a central location that is visible and easily accessible by you. Use common access and common passwords.
- Balance computer use with other activities, hobbies and sports, and ensure that your child’s computer time does not disrupt meal or sleep times.
- Agree on, and enforce, a daily limit for computer use, both for school work and entertainment.Explain that the computer can only be used for entertainment purposes once homework and chores are complete.
- Bookmark ‘favourite’ sites so that there is no danger of mistyping the Web address; some dangerous or profane sites are modeled after the misspelling of popular kid’s websites.
- Forbid private chat rooms for children. Explain the dangers of online predators to your child in terms that they can understand. Encourage them to alert you to any suspicious behaviour on posting boards and explain what they should say if they are invited to a private chat room.
- Explain to your child that you can access the Internet ‘history’ so can see what sites they visit.
With these suggestions in mind, it is also important to recognize both the benefits and risks associated with computers and the Internet. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Near limitless information resource
- High degree of availability and affordability in most communities
- An asset for research and homework
- A communication tool between teachers and students
- Rapid and inexpensive communication via e-mail and video linkage
- Prone to use for excessive periods of time; may interfere with school work or hinder socialization between your child and peers, and with family
- Excessive use fosters inactivity and obesity
- Lack of monitoring for appropriateness or accuracy of information
- False advertising or scams typically spread by email
- Possible exposure to pornography, internet predators, online gambling, plagiarism in school work, violence
Filtering devices can be implemented to control computer visits; however, filtering has limitations in that it blocks sites indiscriminately, which can prohibit access to appropriate sites, and should not overshadow the importance of adult supervision. Visit http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/physical-activity-guidelines for more information on monitoring your child’s computer use.
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