How much screen time should I allow my kids?

screen time

“No ipad time unless you finish your homework,” “just be on my phone while I finish this report,” “you didn’t hear what I said because you are always on your phone.” Typical expressions that most parents have said to their children at some point. While our world is getting more and more connected, while technology advances rapidly and the younger generations are basically born with an aptitude towards technology, parents and experts alike worry about screen exposure for children. Should we keep children away from screens? Will banning screen time, or limiting it to a minimum actually benefit our children? Is this the solution to all our problems?

The 3-6-9-12 rule for children that medical experts suggest

According to the 3-6-9-12 rule that child psychologist Tisseron Serge proposed and the French Pediatric Association endorsed in 2011, the use of technology for children is a ladder not a danger sign. Before the age of 3 children are not supposed to be able to distinguish between reality and fiction, so screen time should be limited to a minimum since watching something on a screen does not really offer them anything. What about computer games? According to the 3-6-9-12 rule, children should not play console games before the age of 6, they should not surf the web unattended before the age of 9 and they should not have smartphones before the age of 12. When they are older than 12, though, they can slowly start accessing the internet via their smartphone with great supervision from their parents. Up until that age and with the gradual exposure of children to technology they will have hopefully learned some rules that will make technology their friend and not their parents’ constant rival.

Is technology the true rival?

The 3-6-9-12 rule is great when used as a guideline to understand how much exposure children should have to technology based on their developmental stage. However, it is not a rule that means to vilify technology and suggest that the only solution is to ban our children from using it. Technology is around children 24/7. Even if they do not have access to it at home, they will go to school and be asked to complete a task on a computer or connect to the virtual classroom via an ipad. And the last thing any parent wants is technologically illiterate children. Educators emphasize that we need to teach our children to view technology as an educational tool, as part of their job at school and not as a guilty pleasure that they are awarded with when they follow the rules. It is the equivalent of hiding chocolate in the cupboard. You do not want your kids to secretly look for chocolate or eat it when they are not at home. You want them to help you make the chocolate cake and enjoy it with the whole family so they don’t turn it into a forbidden pleasure.

Online Education is the future and the future is bright!  

Maybe parents should use technology as an “excuse” to spend more time with their children and not as a way to distract them when they are busy. We do hear about all the dangers, and the truth is that they are real but they can only harm our children if we let them. Parents should sit next to their kids at the computer when they are still young and teach them that this is a tool that will help them have a better quality of education. Online education is growing day by day and is becoming a reality for more and more people. According to statistics, 77.84% of young people worldwide have attended online classes.

Kids always prefer to have fun without their gadgets if they are given the chance

Mrs Stella Bompotsiari, founder of Greek Lessons OnLine and an educator herself underlines that “after working with children from all over the world in our online Greek school, we have seen that kids truly learn that their computers are just tools and they start treating them as parts of a wider educational environment with wonderful results”. Parents usually worry about online education because they want to avoid technology as much as possible, but according to the Mrs Bompotsiari “online education is the smoothest way to show kids instead of telling them that the best use of computers is for educational rather than entertainment purposes without having to go through epic fights that lead to nowhere.” She believes that they tend to grasp this through online education much faster than one would think. “We see that every year at our Greek Language Summer Camp. Most of our students who take online classes year round do not miss their computers or consoles, or ipads at all. When they are having fun at the Camp the last thing they think about is their smartphone. And that is because they have learned from an early age that their gadgets are their tools and not the main way to entertain themselves.”

What is certain is that keeping children away from technology will probably have the opposite results. Technology is an undeniable part of our lives and is only going to grow more. Consequently, all parents should want for their kids to be technologically advanced not only for the benefit of their future careers, but most importantly because this is the only way to actually keep them safe from dangers that will eventually be out of parents’ control.

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