A parents’ guide to screen time for kids

Gadgets and screens are almost impossible to avoid these days, and they’ve become some of the most useful tools in the arsenal of every parent who needs to keep their little one occupied while they get on with other things.

But how much screen time is too much? And how do you know your kids are watching the right kind of shows? With the proliferation of internet TV services like Showmax, which give subscribers access to thousands of hours of series, movies and kids shows at the touch of a button, it’s becoming even more important that parents understand the technology their children are using and how to protect their kids from inappropriate content.

We spoke to creative parenting expert Nikki Bush for the answers to these questions.

A sought-after speaker and co-author of three bestselling books, Future-Proof Your Child (Penguin), Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press) and Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm), Nikki’s work is fuelled by her passion for play, connection and relationships.

She has helped hundreds of thousands of parents to build fabulous relationships with their children by turning very ordinary, everyday moments into extraordinary memories. Her aim is to enable busy parents to future-proof their children despite their busyness. Her wisdom, creativity and practical ideas are the solution for parents who are long on love and short on time.

Here, Nikki gives us her top tips for kids and technology.

What is a good rule of thumb in terms of screen time for kids at different ages?

In preschool, only about an hour a day – children need to be moving more than sitting in front of a screen for maximum brain development. The body is the architect of the brain, so movement is essential.

In primary school, we talk about a rule of thumb of two hours total screen time in a day (TV, gaming, etc, all added together). In high school, it will be much more because they use screens so much for their schoolwork.

The important question parents should ask themselves is, “What else is my child doing in a day besides screen time?” That is a better way of evaluating whether children are on screens too much.

How do I stay in control of my kids’ screen time?

Until age 13, you should decide what your children watch and when. As the parent, you stay in charge and you choose when they can view a programme. Don’t give away control of the remote control or your small screens too soon.

Be a savvy parent and protect your kids from inappropriate content. Internet TV services like Showmax let you set up different profiles for different family members, which is very important when you’ve got multiple family members of different ages sharing the same account. If you’ve got preschoolers and primary school children, make sure to give each child their own profile that is age restricted, so they won’t be exposed to inappropriate content.  

Make sure your account is PIN protected, so you have to unlock it before handing the device or the remote control over to your child. A few minutes spent doing this in the beginning will save a lot of heartache later.

There are lots of classic South African kids shows on Showmax, such as Liewe Heksie and Wielie Wielie Walie. Do you think these are still relevant to kids today?

I love them all. The nice thing about them is that parents can build a bridge to their children through series that they are familiar with. For younger children, these series are nice and slow, which is just perfect, as opposed to some of the much faster and less gentle shows. Also, if learning Afrikaans/English as a second language, this is great to do at an early age, especially under three years for maximum absorption.

And lastly, which educational shows or programmes do you recommend on Showmax?

I took a little tour of the Kids’ Section and the following jumped out for me as reinforcing early learning concepts:

Wonder Pets: Encourages helping and nurturing. Creates awareness of environmental issues. Builds vocab and general knowledge. Age: 2 and up.

The Hero of Colour City: Reinforces colour through colourful crayon adventures. Once again focuses on helpfulness. Age: Primary school children.

Super Why: Reinforces the power of reading, words and spelling, and how these skills decode and unlock the world. Age: 3 and up.

Monster Math Squad: Makes playing with numbers fun. Age: Preschoolers.

Go to showmax.com to browse all the kids programming!

Caxton Central

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