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How much should my son use the computer?

Limiting Computer Time

Q: "How much time should my kids spend on the computer?" -Concerned Father

A: On average, kids in the United States have 4+ hours of screen time (think computers, Ipods, TV's) a day -that's DOUBLE the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation for daily use. Use these tips to help find the best way to handle screen time imitations at your house.

  • The AAP recommends children under the age of two have NO screen time, and children over the age of 2 be limited to 1 - 2 hours a day.
  • The first two years of life are considered critical for brain development. Infants and toddlers who are watching TV are spending less time exploring, observing and interacting with parents and siblings, all things encouraging appropriate development.
  • Children who have too much screen time are likely to be overweight, and may act out violence seen on TV or computer games or be fearful because of it, and be influenced by the gender role and racial sterotypes TV often portrays.
  • Remember that setting boundaries and following through with your children will make all the difference. Be up front about your intentions and talk to them in terms they will understand . "You may watch one episode of Scooby Doo (time being a difficult concept, the word episode works better than 20 minutes). As soon as it is over the TV is turned off."
  • Give warnings about time remaining to young children. Nothing can be more frustrating than having a parent unexpectedly pull the plug on your computer with no warning. Either give verbal warnings yourself (10 minutes left, 5 minutes left, 2 minutes to go) or try getting an egg timer or a digital timer your child can see while they enjoy computer games.
  • Simple, but sometimes overlooked... keep TV's and computers out of kids' bedrooms . Children are more likely to be tempted to flip on the TV when they wake up early in the morning if they have direct access. Keep your kids safe and monitor computer and internet use by having the family computer in a place that is visible to parents and caregivers at all times.
  • Find time to sit down with your child and watch a favorite TV program together . Use the experience to talk about family values and how the program is similiar or different to your family's beliefs and values. Spend time surfing the internet together to teach appropriate online behavior. Bookmark your child's favorite sites! This will help reduce the chance that a typo on your child's part results in unwanted sites popping up.
  • TeacherCaregivers say they would never read a book in front of the children they teach, unless they have read it on their own first. Adopt this policy when deciding what sites your child is allowed to visit on the internet. Take the time to preview all websites and online games before your child is allowed to play them. Some internet games have ratings, like EC, meaning early childhood; safe for children 3 and up. If you aren't sure, stick to the sites you know best. See below for a list of sites you can try.
  • Use screen time as a reward and a privilege, not an everyday occurrence. Your child can earn screen time for doing chores, using good manners, and being kind to others. It can be a great motivator for kids of all ages.
  • Remember that there are benefits too, to children using computers. It can be a great learning tool, engaging your children in everything from math to art and science activities. Hand-eye coordination is also improved by working with a mouse and keyboard. Digital technology is here to stay, and kids who know how to appropriately use it will have a "leg up" in the future.
Here are just a few, of the many websites designed with kids in mind, you might find appropriate for your child to view and play games:
Discovery Kids - interactive, games, interesting information
Animal Planet Pet Center - video, pictures, facts about pets, games and puzzles
Art Detective - for school age children, a great game all about famous artists, perfect to do as a family
Vocab for a Cause - school age children practice vocabulary, and watch their "rice bowl" fill up; for each correct answer 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme, the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger
NickJr. - preschoolers and school age children will love these games featuring favorite Nickelodeon characters
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