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Screen Addiction

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I don't like it when my child gets upset when I tell him he cannot watch TV or play with electronic devices. But I can deal with it. Even though I know we live in a wired world, I can lead my my child to other activities."

Empathy. Tell yourself, "I understand that it's easy to get addicted to the amazing stuff on screens. It talks to you and takes you on exciting adventures that you can repeat over and over."

Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to be less dependent on getting entertained from a screen and experience more adventures that are just as stimulating and exciting as those he watches and listens to on screens."

Use a Phone Basket. During mealtimes or other times that you decide are important, put a phone basket on the center of the table in which every family members' screens are placed.

Limit Screen Time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following time guidelines for screens:

For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.

Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.

For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

Have Screen-Free Times and Zones. Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. These are areas in the house where there are no TVs, computers, or video games.

Go Screen-Free When You Are Interacting with Your Child. When you are playing, diapering, feeding, bathing, or simply talking with your child, turn off the TV, put away your smartphone, and power down your tablet. He doesn't need the distraction of electronics while you and he are having fun together!

Teach Your Child to Practice Empathy. Ask your child how she feels when she talks to someone who won't look at you but only has eyes on her phone. Ask her to keep eye contact with you when you talk to her.

Make Screen-Time Rules. Children need rules and limits as a basis for self-control about screen time and all other behaviors. Set limits to time and content, monitor them closely, and stick to your rules.

Monitor Cyberbullying. Learn the programs and apps your child has and uses in order to monitor content. You are responsible for your child's wellbeing, so be aware if your child is either a victim of bullying or is bullying others online.

Use Grandma's Rule. Make a rule that your child earns every minute he gets of screen time by doing things other than watch screens. Say, for example, "When you have played outside until dinner time, you may have 30 minutes of screen time after dinner."

Praise other Activities. "It's great that you are playing soccer. You are really a strong kicker!" or, "You are really getting good at skateboarding, and I appreciate that you are wearing your helmet."

Discuss Your Child's Media Choices. Watch what your child is watching and games he is playing. Discussing what he is doing or seeing helps with language development and critical thinking. Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

Make a Rule. Make a rule about when screens are on and off. When your child demands access to electronic media, restate the rule. Say, for example, "Remember the rule is: Television is only on from 7-7:30 at night. It's off the other times of the day."

Use a Timer. Set time limits on using electronic media. To avoid constant media use, set the timer on your phone to tell your child when it's time to click the off button, and praise him when he turns to more physically active play.

Be Alert to Addictive Behavior. You can assume your child is addicted to her phone, tablet or computer when she becomes overly emotional when these devices are restricted and is overly concerned about how many likes or texts she is getting. If addiction is a concern, cut back her screen time to lessen her dependence on screens.

What not to do:

Don't Use Screens to Buy Child-Free Time. Instead of giving your child your phone or other electronic device to play with so you can be child-free in the kitchen, involve him in what you are doing, if possible.

Don't Give-In. When your child gets loud and angry because you limit his screen time, it is tempting to just give-in and let him do what he wants. Giving-in teaches him that all he has to do to get what he wants is to have a tantrum. It's up to you to set his boundaries, just as you do when keeping him from playing in traffic.

Don't lose your cool. When your child demands to use your phone whenever he wants, use positive self-talk to remain calm and stick to the rules you've set.

Don't Threaten. Don't tell your child, "If you don't stop crying, I will never let you watch any screen again!" Your threat will create stress and anxiety. Such threats show your child that you don't mean what you say because you cannot follow through on your threat.

Don't Let Young Children Use Headphones. Blasting young ears with the amplified sounds from headphones can cause permanent hearing loss. Because it is impossible to monitor the volume when your young child is using headphones to ensure it is at a safe level, it's best to just not allow their use.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.