3 Keys To Curbing Your Child’s Screen TimeJan 25, 2023
In our modern society, screens have become digital pacifiers.
Our kids are bored? Give them a screen.
Our kids throw a tantrum? Distract them with the tablet.
We need a break? Turn on the TV.
The problem with this approach is that screens have been proven to cause negative side effects in children like depression, trouble sleeping, addictive tendencies, decreased brain function, and a diminished ability to relate and communicate.
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Helping our children form healthier relationships with screens and enjoy more wholesome screen-free play times will go a long way in their development into happy, healthy adults.
Below are three keys we call the three Rs to help you guide your child toward a more positive playtime experience. The three Rs are: Respect, Redirect, and Reinforce.
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This key starts with you, the parent. Our kids model our relationships with our devices, and if we’re having trouble setting our own boundaries, you can bet they’ll struggle with theirs, too.
Here are a few ways to discover if your device habits can use some attention:
- Do you find it hard to put your phone down when your spouse is talking to you?
- Do you struggle to close your laptop when your spouse says it’s dinner time?
Or how about this one:
- Your phone buzzes while it’s next to you during dinner, and you can’t help unlocking it to take a peek
- Or, you restrain yourself, but find your mind and eyes straying toward your phone
Can you relate? If we're having trouble managing our device habits, we shouldn't be surprised when our kids struggle with throwing tantrums when we say they need to turn off the TV, or stop using the phone or tablet. Devices are powerful things, literally built to captivate our attention and keep us coming back for more entertainment. As parents, we need to model to our kids how to handle devices properly.
A great action step is to take time to assess and address the health of your own device habits. Once that’s done, you can move on to the next R—Redirect.
Like changing any habit, the key here is replacement. Help your child experience the same feeling of enjoyment they had while using screens, but just without the screens. Here are three steps to guide you through this process:
1) Start redirecting at home, not in public
Let’s be honest. When your child is throwing a fit in the grocery store, the last thing you’re thinking is how to turn the situation into a teachable moment. You’re embarrassed, and you want your child to calm down—now. A digital pacifier is the easiest thing to pull out at that moment. So here’s the goal. Don’t put yourself in that position. Work through these issues while you’re at home—where the tantrums can be as wild as they want—and you’ll be able to make progress in an environment where you’re not as tempted to compromise.
2) Provide your child with screen-free alternatives
Instead of just telling your child they can’t be on screens, provide some alternatives. Give them two pre approved screen-free options to choose from, or allow them to come up with an alternative of their own. In either case, you’re still allowing them to have a sense of control as they choose what they want to do, while also helping them improve their relationship with screens.
For screen-free ideas for your youngster, check out our blog on Kids and Screens here.
3) Put a time limit on independent screen-free play
If your child has grown used to lots of screen activity, weaning them off slowly can help them form longer-lasting positive habits.
Starting them on scheduled screen-free play times will reshape the way they view play, and help them see they can still have fun without screens. However, you’ll want to start small and work your way up. Start with just 5 minutes, and use a timer to track their playtime. That way they know that if the timer hasn’t gone off, it’s still playtime. You can gradually increase these independent play times until they’re 60, 90, or even 120 minutes.
As your child is learning to engage in screen-free play times, affirm that they are doing well. Celebrate when they choose a screen-free activity on their own. Make it a big deal when they don’t ask you for your phone or the tablet in the car. What your child is recognized and praised for doing is what your child will continue to do.
Once your child enters this stage, start experimenting with taking screen-free alternatives with you to stores and restaurants. Or let your child choose some of their own favorite alternatives to take on the go.
Eventually, you’ll be able to enjoy trips to the grocery store with a contented kiddo.
With screens touching more and more areas of life, as parents, we need to be that much more intentional to do what’s best for our kids. By following the three Rs, you can help your child experience more meaningful, healthy playtime while avoiding some of the downsides of screens.
Screen free tools and support:
A timer can be extremely helpful as you start to enforce screen free time.
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