You’re probably already aware of the benefits of limiting your children’s screen time. But I bet you didn’t know that you can use that same principle to help them develop into strong, independent thinkers. If you’re ready to get started, here are some tips for getting your kids off their screens and onto other interesting activities:
Create a routine
A routine is a key part of any child’s life, but it can be even more important to a kid who spends an inordinate amount of time staring at a screen.
- Routine helps children know what to expect. Kids love routines because they allow them to feel secure and relaxed—they know that when you ask them if they want carrots or applesauce for dinner, the answer will always be “carrots,” because you always serve carrots on Tuesdays. When your child knows what’s coming next, she’ll feel comfortable and safe no matter where she is or what she’s doing.*
- Routine helps parents make decisions. A regular schedule makes it easier for parents (and teachers) to plan their day: What time should I wake my kids up? When should I leave for work? What activities do we have planned this week? Having firm answers makes those tasks easier.
- Routine helps children develop good habits. A regular schedule helps kids form good sleep habits; when bedtime approaches every night at 7:30 pm sharp, it becomes easier for them to relax into restful slumber without feeling stressed about missing out on something else.*
Start with yourself
One of the most important things you can do to limit your kids’ screen time is to start with yourself. It’s tempting to use screens as a babysitter, or as a reward or punishment, but don’t do it. You’re not being fair to your child if you’re using technology in place of spending quality time together—and then blaming them for not wanting to spend that quality time with you later on!
In addition, it’s easy for parents who are experiencing problems in their marriage or other relationships at home to turn to screen time for distraction and avoidance. Be sure that both partners (or all parties involved) are on board with making changes in this area before taking any action.
Get to know your settings
The first step to limiting your kids’ screen time is to get to know your settings. The parental controls on devices are often a little confusing, but they’re essentially the same across all of them—you can set up time limits, age restrictions, and location services for any device you own (or have access to).
To do this:
- Make sure you have an account with that company’s app store (e.g., Google Play or iTunes) and that you’re logged in.
- Go into settings and select “Parental Controls.” On iOS devices, this will be under “General.” On Android devices, it’s called “Family Link” or something similar.
- You’ll then see a list of apps installed on your phone; if any apps shouldn’t be used by children under 13 years old (which would be most of them), tap each one individually until they turn red; these should now show a dialog box asking whether or not they want their parent’s permission before installing new apps or making changes to existing ones. For example: if someone tries installing Candy Crush Saga without getting permission from Mommy first she’ll see something like this:
Introduce Interactive Toys to Your Child
- Interactive toys are a great way to keep your child engaged, and they can help stimulate the development of his or her mind.
- Interactive toys can also be used as a teaching tool for your child. For example, if you have a tamagotchi is a small, digital pet. It has a keychain that allows you to take it with you anywhere. You can feed your Tamagotchi, play games with it, and raise it so it becomes an adult and can reproduce!
- Finally, interactive toys are fantastic at keeping kids entertained when they’re bored because they will never be bored when they have something fun to do like playing with these amazing toys!
Teach them how to choose good content
- Be a good role model.
- Use your judgment.
- Make it a family discussion.
- Show them how to use the internet safely
Set limits and stick to them
- Set limits and stick to them.
- Set a time limit for screen time (30 minutes, 60 minutes).
- Set a time limit for each device (3 hours per week on gaming devices; 30 minutes per day on phones).
- Set a time limit for each activity (10-minute reading sessions before bedtime).
- Set a time limit for each day (20 hours of total screen time during the week).
- Don’t forget to set limiting routines in place as well! You can figure out how many hours of television your child is allowed to watch by using this chart:
Allow for flexibility
As a parent, you probably have certain rules about screen time. You might allow your kids one hour of video games per day or 30 minutes of TV. However, keeping strict limits can make it hard for your children to have fun and stay engaged with their favorite shows or games. For example, if they’re allowed only an hour of video games each day, they may rush through the game to get back to playing again later in the day—or even right away! This can be stressful for both parents and kids alike.
Instead, use these guidelines:
- Set appropriate expectations but be flexible with them;
- Encourage healthy habits around screen time; and
- Be clear about what’s OK and what isn’t when it comes to time spent online (i.e., don’t let your kid spend hours watching videos).
Include family time in the schedule
As a parent, you might feel like you’re constantly trying to limit your children’s screen time. But don’t worry! Screen time can be a wonderful way to connect with them and teach them about the world around them. Here are some ways that screen time can be used:
- To teach children about the world around them by looking at pictures of animals and learning how they live in their environment.
- To teach children history by watching documentaries on topics that interest them or reading books about different cultures and eras.
- To teach children about their futures by letting them play games that involve planning for tomorrow (for example, having a pretend tea party).
- And lastly, if there are no other options for spending time together as a family, going on an online shopping spree could be fun too!
You can use screen time for good for you and your kids’ growth
- Set limits
- Enforce the limits
- Make sure your kids know what the rules are and how they will be enforced. It’s also important that you are setting limits for yourself as well!
- Use screen time for good. Pretend you have no apps or games on your phone and try to use them in a way that enhances learning, skill acquisition, or social interaction.
Screen time is a double-edged sword. It can be a great tool to help your child learn and grow, but it’s also important not to overdo it. Remember that the most important thing about screen time is not necessarily how much or how little you use, but the quality of that time spent together as family or friends. You want to make sure that screen time doesn’t detract from other activities or responsibilities (like homework) so that everyone gets enough sleep and spends enough face-to-face time together enjoying each other’s company!