Tablets and smartphones are great for keeping your child entertained on long car rides or rainy days, but it’s easy for kids to get hooked on their digital devices. Here’s how your household can cut down on screen time. Screen time is among the most controversial topics in modern parenting. Most agree that kids’ screen time should be monitored and capped to some degree, but opinions vary widely on just what limitations should be set. While some parents adhere strictly to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (APA) recommendation of no more than one hour of screen time per day (on average), others are more flexible.
But regardless of the rules of thumb parents choose to follow, when children get hooked on a video game, television show, or YouTube series, enforcing screen time limits is easier said than done. With that in mind, here are several simple strategies for setting and enforcing rules to reduce your children’s screen time.
- Set — and enforce — clear ground rules.
- Help your child find new activities to enjoy.
- Know when to bend your rules — and when not to.
You don’t have to follow the APA’s screen time guidelines to a T, but reducing your child’s screen time does require you to establish clear, firm limits. When children realize boundaries are non-negotiable, they’re much likelier to abide by them — especially when the boundaries are new and unfamiliar. If you’re concerned about tantrums, you may want to consider involving your child in the decision-making process. Explain to them that they have a set amount of screen time per day, but ask what time of day they’d prefer to use a tablet or laptop and what kind of content they’d like to consume. This helps your child perceive their screen time limit as a reasonable compromise instead of an arbitrary dictum
If some sort of screen time is currently your child’s primary or even secondary after-school activity, it’s not unrealistic to expect that they’ll be upset when you take away their favorite pastime. While you should prepare yourself for complaints, try to offer appealing alternative activities to get your child to move on quickly. Opt for toys and games that are interactive, funny, surprising, or dramatic, mimicking the stimulation your child may have previously received from digital activities. Charades, magic kits, and educational board games can all help fill the gap left by reduced screen time, as, when used properly, they’re all as engaging as any screen-based activity.
While firm ground rules are a must for reducing screen time, these rules don’t have to be without exception. For example, many parents find that tablets are a godsend on long plane or car rides, when a noisy child can disrupt other passengers or distract a driver from the road. Plus, when children know that a long travel day means more media consumption than usual, that can soothe any stress and anxiety they may have related to the travel process.
A Partner in Your Child’s Health and Wellbeing
If you’re concerned that your child is spending too much time on their tablet, smartphone, or laptop, consider reaching out to Kids’ Health. The leading pediatric practice in the Beverly, Massachusetts, area, we’re dedicated to helping your child reach their best, physically, academically, and emotionally. If screen time is getting in the way of your child’s wellbeing, contact us today....