Age 3 through 6th Grade

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Internet and Screen Guidelines for Parents

Sunday, November 19, 2017

In this age of children having easy online access, parents are seeking additional guidance regarding screen time and internet safety for their children.I thought it sensible to pass along what I’ve learned over the years, either from hearing professionals present (for instance, a couple of weeks ago we had a “Safe Surf” presentation to our fifth and sixth graders), current research in the field, and lessons I’ve learned from my work in schools.

Some thoughts:

• There is not well-developed research on how much screen time is too much. But you don’t want your children to be the guinea pigs, so here is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: Under 18 months of age, no screen time other than video chatting. 18-24 months of age, select high-quality programming and co-watch with your children so that you can discuss with him/her. 2-5 years of age, one hour per day of high-quality, co-watched programming. 6 years of age and older, place consistent limits on the amount and types of screen time, and ensure it does not interfere with sleep and physical activity. More information can be found at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/19/peds.2016-2592

• Do not allow internet access of any kind from private spaces such as bedrooms. This goes for phones, tablets and computers. Remember, you wouldn’t let your child wander through the city unaccompanied, so don’t let them wander the global internet without oversight.

• Remind children early and often that anything they post online is both permanent and public. Good rule of thumb: they should not put something online that they wouldn’t say to you!

• Before promising a phone to your child, think it through. There are excellent reasons for children to be connected, and different families have differing ages at which they think a phone is appropriate. The conversation will go much more smoothly if you tell them, long before it is time, just how old they need to be to get a phone.

We aren’t yet entirely sure how today’s highly connected world will affect our children, but protecting them from harm now—by being clear with them on your rules, and seeing this as a shared path—will help your child navigate this world a bit more safely and securely.