Screens are so integrated into our lives it’s hard to imagine life without them. Most of us have experienced what life was like before the personal technology boom but for our children, they won’t know any different. Screen time will be an unavoidable part of our children's lives, be it school, future careers, socialising or even day to day tasks such as shopping.
Excessive and junk screen time can have a negative effect on our children and we can all struggle with how to navigate the best way to manage our children's digital lives.
A great way to stay in control of your child's screen time and help you to make good choices when it comes to your child and media is to develop a family media use plan, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 
Below we have put together some ideas to help to help you start thinking about your own plan:
1. Limit Screen Time
Most negative effects of screen time can be linked to the duration of time spent on a screen. The World Health Organisation recommended the following screen time usage limits for younger children: 
Infant (less than 1 year of age) to 2 years old
At this age screens are not recommended, however reading to your child during the early years is important for their development so we would recommend narrating our stories yourself or playing the audio for your little one.
As you start to introduce screens to your 2 year old, if they’ve already listened to the audiobook, why not share the digital story with them so they can see the illustrations. This gradual introduction with a familiar story can help to build their association with digital devices and reading stories. In terms of the screen time limit, the WHO suggests a maximum of 1 hour, with less time preferred.
3 to 4 years old
Similarly to 2 year olds, share the digital story with them so they can see the illustrations and start to familiarise themselves with words and pronunciation. The WHO recommends no more than one hour spent on screens for this age group.
5 years old and older
By this age we suggest taking a look at how screen activity can support education and development. [Benefits of screen time link] At Sooper Books we have a range of stories and audiobooks written for this age group. They can listen to the audiobook whilst reading along to aid their literacy development. The WHO recommended creating consistent limits on daily screen time and types of media.
2. Online Safety
As children become more independent on digital devices it’s important to utilise parental controls to block or filter internet content on all devices your child has access to. This is a great guide by the NSPCC on how to set up parental controls.
Make sure children use internet connected devices in communal areas of your home. This way you can always keep an eye on what they are accessing.
Teach children about online bullying and how they should navigate this. For example, they should always be respectful when engaging with others and prepared to communicate with you when they do come across uncomfortable comments and behaviours.
Explain how the internet works. Make sure children are aware that everything they do is recorded and saved somewhere. Also reinforce that they should only ever act the way they would in offline life
3. Implement the 20-20-20-2 rule
Eye health is incredibly important especially when it comes to our children. We all know looking at screens too much is not good for our eyes and can result in eye health issues. Introduce good practice with your child by teaching them the 20-20-20-2 rule. Every 20 minutes, focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds, and blink 20 times. 
4. No screens at night
Blue light is emitted from most devices with a screen. This type of light can increase alertness and suppress the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Studies have found that children are more susceptible to the effects of blue light than adults, causing children's bedtimes to be later and reducing the amount of sleep. 
- Create a No Screen Zone in bedrooms after a certain time
- Spend the last hour before bedtime away from devices to help your child unwind
- Listen to audiobooks at bedtime (this is one of the reasons we have hundreds of audiobooks!)
- Read print books
5. Review sites, apps and programmes beforehand
There are plenty of age appropriate educational applications out there, it is just about finding the right ones for your child. Before letting them loose, preview programs, games and apps to make sure they are what you expect and are appropriate for your child's age. There are websites such as Common Sense Media and similar companies that rate everything from films to apps, video games to podcasts, to help you figure out if it is appropriate for your child's age.
6. Screen Breaks
Spending too much time on a screen can cause children to become over stimulated and increase their stress levels. With younger children stick to the recommended time limits and prioritise developmental free play away from devices. Older children may need to spend more time online when you factor in school, homework and then leisure time. Help keep them calm and focused by scheduling in ‘no screen’ breaks throughout their day.
7. Inspire Physical Activity
Make sure to counterbalance sedentary screen time with the recommended physical activity your child needs. 
Nothing can replace outdoor play and adventure to help boost your child's activity levels and development. Use their screentime to motivate them to get moving:
- Act out their favourite story with them
- Listen to their favourite audiobooks while on a walk
- Put on their favourite playlist and have a dance
- Play games that involve physical movement e.g. sport simulators, dance games
- Watch Videos about outdoor adventures
- Plan a walk using digital maps
- Create a movement routine where whenever and ad comes on, your child needs to do 5 star jumps
- (make sure all activities are age appropriate for your child)
We hope these ideas help you develop a screen time plan that works for you and your family. Remember you may stray from your plan occasionally or develop it over time, but just trying can dramatically reduce the negative effects that can be caused by screen time.
 Media and Children | American Academy of Pediatrics
 To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more | World Health Organisation
 How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids’ Eyes: Tips to Prevent Eye Strain | The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
 How Blue Light Affects Kids’ Sleep | Sleep Foundation