Raising children in a digital age is a challenge most of us didn’t come prepared for. How do you even begin to set limits on screen time when there are screens practically everywhere?
Screen time can be both good and harmful- depending on what people use it for. The main concern about too much screen time for kids is that it takes their focus away from activities that promote their physical and emotional growth.
But I guess you are already aware of the problems. You have come here for solutions and I am here to help.
So here are 10 tried and tested tips you can use to help your kid cut back on screen time and do something actually productive instead-
1. Start Early
According to one study published in Jama Pediatrics, the average daily screen time of a 12-month-old kid is 53 minutes a day which increases to 150 minutes by the time they are 3.
Younger children are easier to work with. You can just deny them access to electronic devices when they overshoot their screen time limit.
Establish or enforce strict screen use rules for kids between the ages of 2-5. Only allow one hour a day of high-quality programming.
Loosen up a little as they get older but continue to keep track of their screen time using a timer until they are old enough to be on their own. Be reasonable.
2. Independent Playtime
Unrestrained screen time is often the direct result of the lack of involvement in other activities. Encourage your kids to go out, play baseball, soccer, ride their bicycle-whatever floats their boat.
The best way to take your toddler’s eyes off the iPad is to get him a push handle tricycle or a balance bike.
It will take him a while to champion the balance and coordination, keeping him busy enough to forget about video games and stuff for the time being.
If going outdoors isn’t always the solution, be creative with indoor games.
My kids love puzzles and I want them to stay physically active.
So I combined the key elements of puzzles and treasure hunting and created our own little game that’s challenging and pure fun at the same time.
Board games, reading books, finger painting, and similar activities can also help your kid cut down on screen time without a fight.
3. Be Involved
Sometimes, the lack of enough attention and involvement from parents lead the kids to lose themselves in the world of social media and video games. Roll your sleeves and play with your kids any chance you get.
Teach them how to ride a bike or take them out for ice cream every Sunday. There’s no dearth of activities you can do with your kids. And trust me, when they grow old, they will thank you for being there.
4. Token Reinforcement System
Your kids should be well-aware of the fact that there’s no room for negotiation here. If the rule says 30 minutes of screen time in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, that is it.
Token reinforcement system is a great way to condition kids to play by the rules.
Give your kid a token every time they successfully complete a task e.g doing the homework on time, cleaning the room, putting the dishes in the dishwasher.
Say each token has a value of 15 minutes of screen time. They can cash these tokens any time they want.
Establishing a reward-system like this is a great way to successfully reinforce positive behavior in kids of all ages.
5. Screen-free Bedroom
Make your kid’s room a screen-free zone. No TV, computer, or video game system should be allowed in your child’s bedroom. Make your kids charge their devices outside their rooms before going to sleep.
Let’s not kid ourselves. We adults, at least the majority of us, are guilty of letting unrestrained screen time mess with our body clock. Let’s not allow our kids to repeat the same mistake. Okay?
This brings me to my next point-
6. Lead by Example
Not to state the obvious but children are very impressionable. They are wired to model their behavior after yours.
If you keep your phone from the dinner table or refrain from scrolling through your newsfeed during family time, your kids will follow.
7. Parental Control
Use technology to fight the misuse of technology. Smart, isn’t it?
Today, there are plenty of parental control apps out there to help parents filter inappropriate, explicit content.
Moreover, all smartphones have built-in parental control settings allowing you to block specific websites or even the search of certain keywords.
Sometimes, you can’t control your kids’ screen use. But you can prevent their young, impressionable minds from consuming the wrong content.
8. Promote Digital Literacy
Sometimes all your kid needs is a fresh perspective. Parental control apps won’t forever keep your kids from being exposed to what’s out there.
Therefore, it’s important to talk to them and try to explain why limiting screen time is important at this age.
Encourage your little one not to trust anything they read or see on the internet. Teach them to think critically and question the content electronic media feeds us.
You can scare them off a little bit by talking about the consequences of being overly dependent on social media.
9. Indulge Occasionally
You don’t always have to impose disciplinary measures to teach discipline. Kids should be allowed to binge-watch a show or movies on selected days of the month.
Let them knock themselves out on those days. Make sure your kids understand that on any other day, they shouldn’t even bother to ask.
10. Whole Family Digital Detox
Give yourself and your kids some time to unplug, unwind and hit the reset button. Digital detox is our family’s tri-annual ritual.
We turn the notifications off, use our phone only for important communication, and stay away from the TV screen as much as possible during holidays and vacations.
We utilize the free time to spend quality time with each other instead.
The kids don’t mind going cold turkey for a few days as long as their mom, dad, and siblings are doing the same.
Improvise, Adapt, Overcome- this popular Marine slogan is my parenting mantra. The world is evolving and our kids with it. Therefore, our parenting techniques will have to evolve too in order to make them work.
The growing dependence on digital media is a mass phenomenon, making it increasingly difficult for parents to foster restraint. Like it or not, it will be an ongoing challenge.
Nonetheless, by imposing screen-time rules and encouraging positive behavior through small rewards- you can help your kids manage screen time and stay active.