As parents, we are constantly being reminded that our children need to have less screen time. While we may know the importance of reducing screen time, we may not know the best way to actually accomplish this task. This can lead to frustration and may result in a declaration of “No screens for a week!”—met by tears and frustration.
Here are some ideas to help you accomplish this task, with minimal upset and perhaps even a little fun:
Be the change you wish to see
How often have we told a child to turn off a TV/tablet/video game while holding a phone in our own hand? By modeling the behavior of putting away devices, we are better able to set a more positive tone.
- Practice disconnecting by shutting off alerts (except for the ringtone) and using the phone as only a phone for a designated number of hours a day. Here’s a trick … plug the phone into the wall and pretend it’s an actual wall phone)
- Make certain areas of the house “device-free zones” that mom and dad need to follow as well as the children (such as the dinner table, the living room, and bedrooms).
- Emphasize the importance of driving without digital distractions by locking your phone in the center console or glove box while you are driving.
Change the digital-based routine
Often the hardest part of taking a break from devices is that they have become built into our daily routines. By changing up the order of events, we can help ease the transition away from screens without as much “withdrawal.” Two times of day that most families find most difficult to unplug is during the morning routine and at the dinner hour.
Offering a child screen time after he has finished getting ready for school can be helpful for getting him motivated to go, but can set the wrong tone for the day. Instead, try allowing him to listen to music while getting ready. This gives the child a designated timeframe (ex: put your shoes on while you listen to this song) while providing some motivation and entertainment.
Evenings can be a little more difficult, as typically one parent is getting the evening meal ready while managing children. An audio or read-along book can be a useful tool in this situation. The child can even participate in getting the table set, while listening to the audio book.
Keep devices OUT of children’s bedrooms
Children today are being exposed to so much more than we can even imagine—between commercials, billboards, video games, TV shows, movies, and apps parents have a LOT of material to monitor. There have even been reports of disturbing material and attempts at communication by predators in “child friendly” apps and video games. The best way to avoid children being exposed to inappropriate material and interactions is to keep devices out in the open. Parents should always be able to see their child’s screen, and should know all the child’s user names and passwords.
At first, limiting your child’s screen time may seem like a difficult task. However, when parents set boundaries and provide supervision, it not only directly benefits the child, but it also enhances the quality of family time.