If screen time is going through the roof in your home because of the school holidays, you’re not alone. Children tend to spend a lot more time watching TV, playing video games or browsing the internet whenever school is out of session. Many times it’s because parents just want to have peace of mind. Screen time all day means no distractions, enough sleep/rest and less screaming or yelling for parents. No judgment passed here; but it’s not fair to subject kids to the screen because we need time to ourselves. This doesn’t mean screen time is a bad thing. But is a lot better when it’s balanced with other productive activities. Spending too much time on the scree has a lot of disadvantages for both kids and adults. For kids, it can lead to obesity, poor school performances, sleep problems, chronic neck and back pain and a lot more. So how do we regulate screen time in our homes? It’s not an easy task but we’ve put together 5 tried and tested ways you and your family can try.
1. Talk to your kids.
This is the best way to start. Many times as parents, we find ourselves implementing rules in the home or blatantly saying no to our kids without giving them a reason or reasons why. “Because I said so.”, isn’t a good reason. So the first step is to talk with your kid(s). Tell them why limiting screen time is for their own good. Talk about the adverse effects of too much screen time. Even if they aren’t happy about the changes made, at least they’ll know the reasons why. That gives some sort of closure and they would be more likely to follow the rules you set. You can also add the dangers of online predators and inappropriate websites to the conversation, if they have access to the internet.
2. Set a schedule.
It might sound unreal, but younger kids work well with set routines. It might trickier as they get older but there’s always a way around it. Choose specific times or durations where your child is allowed screen use. According to WHO, screen time is not advised for kids less than 2 years old. Kids who are 2 to 4 years old should have no more than one hour of screen time. Older kids can have up to 2 hours of screen time a day. But of course, do what works for you and your family. Remember if you add a few other fun but ‘screenfree’ activities to your kid’s day, it will make things easier.
3. Restrict gadget use in particular areas.
Start by keeping screens out of your kids’ bedrooms and even your bedrooms. Ask them to put away gadgets when in the bathroom, during dinner, in the kitchen or on family outings. Don’t forget to put yours away too. This is also a way to encourage better family bonding; putting technology aside gives your family the opportunity to spend quality time together.
4. Be a good example.
If you work from home and have to be on your gadget for longer periods of time, make sure your kids understand this. Remember you can still intentionally regulate your phone or laptop use regardless. You can take breaks to have a meal and chat with your family members. Make sure your kids can see when you take tech-free breaks and try as much as possible to sync your breaks with theirs.
5. Engage in other fun activities.
Remember how you barely got any screen time as a child but you still got to have a lot of fun playing at home and with friends? Your kids can enjoy screen-free fun too instead of depending on their phones or TV as their sole source of good entertainment. Encourage them to read books. Play outside with them. Play board games, charades, card games, fun sports and a lot more.
Screen time has a lot of benefits for children especially when they offer educational value. Video games can improve cognitive skills and coordination. Using the internet and related tools are great ways to keep in touch with friends, research for homework and learn other new and useful things. But a screen-time overload will end up jeopardizing these cool benefits. So finding a balance is key.
How have you been able to limit screen-time in your home? Share with us in the comments!