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The time spent every day using the Internet or playing computer games should be monitored by parents at every stage of a child’s development. How to properly follow the recommendations of experts?

Observation of the child 

The first step to spotting a child’s problem with too much attachment to the computer or the Internet is to observe his behavior and daily habits. Admittedly, it’s quite a long way from many hours spent in front of the computer to Internet addiction, but it’s worth knowing the most common symptoms that may be present when the disease begins. Among them, experts mention first of all the loss of consciousness in controlling the time spent in front of the computer, neglecting daily chores, maintaining contact with peers only online, emotional irritability, reluctance to leave the house, mood swings (including groundless aggression) or concentration problems. Of course, any of these symptoms can stem from puberty or trouble at school, while in combination they can become a signal for parents to take action. 

Recommended time in front of the computer

In addition to simply observing and talking to your child about time spent online, it’s also worth reviewing the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which has determined how much time devoted to online activity is harmless for the youngest. It is also worth remembering that prolonged use of the phone or computer can be harmful to health, mainly due to the blue light emitted by the screens, which has a negative effect on vision. Experts advise that the time and type of activity of a child in front of a smartphone or computer screen should be adapted to his age, and thus the needs and capabilities of the growing body. It is best to divide this time into smaller chunks, so as not to put too much strain on the eyes and the work of the brain, for which surfing the Internet is an intellectual effort and requires concentration. According to generally accepted recommendations, children of early school age, that is, from 6 years to 10 years, should spend a maximum of about 60 minutes a day in front of a computer screen. Older children and adolescents can have this time doubled. Young parents should also keep in mind that children under the age of two should not use their phones, even for watching cartoons. This requirement is almost impossible to meet, but it is worth keeping the time in front of the screen to a minimum. 

What can be done when a child spends too much time in front of a screen? 

The most important thing that can help solve this problem is to talk to the child. He or she may not be aware of the dangers of too much Internet use or excessive gaming. An open conversation about the child’s needs and the demands placed on him or her can solve the problem at its early stages. Setting a time limit or setting up specific blockers and monitors of time spent on the computer can help develop good habits in the child. In addition to conversation, it’s a good idea to plan joint family activities to fill the child’s free time and strengthen bonds between household members. Finding a common hobby and developing the child’s interests, especially activities outside the home, can encourage the child to reduce the time spent on the computer. In more difficult cases, it is worth going to a specialist who can advise on how to help your child. 

main photo: unsplash.com/Thomas Park

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Lilliana Ross

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