How to Find and Track Your Child’s Hidden Digital Time

To accurately assess the amount of screen time your child is experiencing, you need to first find and then track hidden or unexpected screen time in your child’s day. In a variety of locations, children may experience unexpected screen time. The following are just a few of the locations where kids may be turning on and tuning in:

  • Health professionals’ offices: Not only do dentist office waiting rooms often have a television with movies or even video game consoles, but dentists often also show movies to kids during teeth cleanings and even exams. And children’s doctor’s offices often use television and movie time to keep both the waiting children and their parents occupied while they wait to be seen.

  • Restaurants: Many restaurants display sporting events or news channels in waiting areas or over bars, which may be seen from other areas of the restaurant.

  • Before or after care: Children who attend before care or after care as part of their school day may be shown movies or television as part of the regularly scheduled activities of that child care facility.

  • Religious institutions: Use of digital media in curriculum extends beyond the daily school curriculum and into many religious institutions that may show videos as part of their weekly lessons.

  • Airports and train stations: Much like doctor’s offices, airports and train stations often have televisions in their waiting areas.

  • Cars: Many vehicles now come equipped with or offer screens that either drop down from the vehicle’s ceiling or are installed in the back of headrests.

  • Hair salons: Like pediatric dentist offices using television time to calm nervous children, hair salons created for young clientele often put televisions in their waiting rooms as well as at the cutting stations.

Most locations that provide children with access to computers or television do so in an attempt to make the children feel at ease during what otherwise could be an uncomfortable situation. With that said, if you are a parent who would like to limit your child’s screen time, you may not wish for them to take advantage of these opportunities.

Before going somewhere such as the dentist or a restaurant where your child may be given the chance to watch a movie or show, or play a computer, decide the following:

  • Will you allow your child to watch the provided digital entertainment?

  • Will this digital time count toward your child’s screen time totals for the day or week?

If you decide to count this screen time toward the totals allowed in your Digital Family Policy, you may wish to offer your child the option to not partake of the television or movie viewing. In this case, provide the following:

  • Other options for your child to pass the time such as reading a book, completing a puzzle workbook, or working on the evening’s homework assignment

  • Alternative locations to sit such as away from televisions in a restaurant or in a section of a waiting room that does not have a clear view of monitors

  • Music to listen to in order to distract from the screens around the room

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