Screen Time for Kids with Special Needs
My advice for screen time for kids with Learning Disabilities, or Learning Differences as I like to call them, is the same advice for so-called normal kids for the most part. But, I first want to say that two parents taking care of a child with any special needs is like a single parent taking care of a so-called normal child – it’s double the work. In all cases, you need a plan for limiting screen time and rules for what your child can do on their devices.
The first thing to be aware of as a parent is that if your child has become addicted to their media devices in the past two years, it is not entirely their fault. It’s most likely because of the Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions. Before Covid-19 hit, parents didn’t have to worry about screen time as much as they do now because kids have been home more than they used to be. However, pandemic or no pandemic, there still needs to be a limit on screen time for kids -- especially for kids with special needs, because excessive screen time on their devices can affect them more than so-called normal kids by keeping them from working on their learning skills. I personally think two hours should be the daily time limit. This would break down to half hour for Zoom calls with school calls coming first, half an hour for down time, and an hour for what I call “play-learning games,” like math and reading games or music games to learn an instrument. On the weekends, all screen time can be the family watching a movie together because kids spending time with their family is important.
Being a parent is like climbing a mountain with your child: you go up the mountain with your child, but you are always a little bit ahead of them. You go first because you are a more experienced climber, metaphorically speaking, and then your child follows you. But when it’s time to take their devices away, be prepared for a little gravel to fall on you. Instead of getting mad at them, first try to talk to them normally. Hopefully, that will work. However, I am not going to sugar coat things. Every once in a while, parents will need to raise their voices to show their child or children that they mean business. Once that gravel has fallen behind you, there are other activities you can do with them, like going on a walk, reading together, playing board games or cards, or letting them make up a game to play.
So here are my four suggested rules for all kids screen time:
1) They can use her devices for Zoom calls for a few minutes up to half an hour, with school calls taking priority.
2) They can use their devices for half an hour for down time.
3) Any remaining time that they want to use their devices up to a two-hour limit is for playing educational games.
4) If they break the rules, the parents should take away their devices for that day and the next day and use that time to play board games or other games together.