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The constant argument about media time: At what point is it too much?

3 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Social Media
Copyright. photothek.de

“Now put the phone down!”
“I think you’ve played long enough now!”
Do these sentences sound familiar? You may be worried that your child is spending too much time with media and that this is harming his or her health or disrupting family times together. But how much media time is actually problematic?

Digital media are part of our lives

Digital media are not going away. They offer us many opportunities to be creative, to learn and to stay in touch in difficult times or across city and country borders. This year, children and young people between the ages of 12 and 19 spent an average of four hours a day using media. That is almost twice as long as ten years ago. The Corona pandemic is partly responsible. Two years ago, it was just over three hours a day.
Children also take their cue from their parents. Today, we can hardly imagine everyday life without media: We use the laptop for online shopping, the ticket app for the bus ride, the TV at the end of the day.

When it gets to be too much: Risks of media use

Smartphone, TV & Co are everyday for children and exert a strong attraction. It becomes difficult for parents when their children cannot find an ending. The brain of adolescents is still developing. That’s why it’s harder for them to stop, even when they’ve actually had enough. Using a medium intensively at times during a particular phase of life, such as puberty, can be unproblematic. Sometimes it can even help to get through this phase But excessive use can lead to stress or sleep disorders. In rarer cases, neglect of friends and school and loss of control may occur. If you observe such excessive behavior over an extended period of time, it is important to talk to your child and possibly seek counseling. To protect your children from this, it is therefore important to guide them in their use of media.

How much media time is okay? Notes and recommendations

There is no clear answer to the question of how much media time is good for your child. Various guidebooks provide recommendations on media times. However, these are rough guide values. Much more important than the duration of use, in addition to the age and stage of development of your child, is the accompaniment of parents:

  • Agree on common rules for media use in the family. Keep in mind that these rules fit your child’s needs.
  • To determine times of use, it is useful to talk about media content and the goals of media use. Internet research for school, for example, is a necessary task with a clear goal. Online games are a popular pastime that, along with other play and leisure activities, are important for children’s development and recreation. At the same time, it can be difficult to find an end here. Clearly agreed rules help here.
  • A media usage agreement, for example, is practical for agreements.
  • Consistently implement the mutually agreed rules. An important role model is yourself.
  • Explain to your child why these rules are important and that they change as the child grows or develops. The more familiar your child is with certain platforms, opportunities and risks, the better they can protect themselves. For younger children, technical settings or parental control programs to limit time can help. Also, make sure your child is consuming media that is appropriate for their age.
  • Pay attention to the effect on your child. What influence does media use have? Is it easily irritated or restless? Help him to recognize his limits by himself.
  • Offer your child “offline” Alternatives. Younger children need exercise and fresh air. Young people can meet with friends or pursue hobbies.

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