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Parents have been using television as a way to keep their children out of their hair for decades. Today, the television isn’t all kids are using to stay entertained; the smartphone is quickly becoming the tech gadget of choice among the world’s youth. If you’re wondering how much tech is too much, you aren’t alone. Here are five healthy ways to keep your kids entertained with a four-inch screen:

1.The Two Hour Limit

The AAP, or American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that children under two not be permitted to use smartphones at all. For other children, the AAP recommends a time limit of two hours. While these guidelines may be healthy for your child, for many parents, it’s simply unrealistic to limit children to two hours of technology per day. When you consider that the average home has 11 electronic gadgets, limiting your child’s use to two hours maximum per day can be difficult.

2.It’s Not a Babysitter

The key to allowing your children to use a smartphone is to avoid using it as a babysitter. Just like the Internet, television and gaming systems, a smartphone can’t raise your child for you. Try not to make a habit out of sitting your kid on the couch with their favorite gadget so you can clean the house, get ready for work or cook dinner. Technology isn’t meant to be a replacement for social interaction, and it’s up to parents to make sure that it isn’t used as such.

3.Use it to Teach

If you have a smartphone, you have access to hundreds of educational apps that your child can enjoy. Many of these apps are disguised as games, keeping your child entertained and blissfully unaware that they are actually learning something. Look for apps that will help small children learn to read, learn numbers and learn about music. Older children can use apps to learn a new language, enhance their reading and writing skills, or even learn about animals.

4.Sit with Your Kids

Just as experts recommend that you sit with your children while they are on the Internet, you should sit with your child while they are using a smartphone. At the very least, you should watch your child select an app and then remain within earshot. Supervising your child while they are using your smartphone can help to ensure that they are using it in a safe and approved manner.

5.Get Some Fresh Air

No matter how long you decide to let your children use a smartphone for entertainment or educational purposes, make sure that they take a break. You should go outside with your children for at least 15 minutes for every hour spent on a technological gadget. Your children need to understand that there are more ways than one to have a good time. Fresh air and exercise is not only healthy for your children, but it’s healthy for you as well. Spending time playing together is also a great way to bond as a family.

There is nothing wrong with allowing your children to spend time with your smartphone, provided you are supervising that time and offering guidance. With the hundreds of educational apps available across all operating systems, smartphones can be a great learning tool for children of all ages.

Jenni Hillocks is a freelance writer in San Francisco. She writes for mobilephones.org.uk where you can research the most current technology for cell phones.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to use smartphones wisely.

Image courtesy of Ed Yourdon via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.