In this digital age, many parents are worried that their kids are spending too much time looking at screens—whether it’s scrolling through social media posts on phones or playing games on computers or tablets.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4 to 6 hours a day facing a screen, while teens spend up to 9 hours.
Reasons to Cut Back on Screen Time
There are downsides to spending excessive time facing a screen. Some of them are:
- inadequate sleep
- poor performance in school
- a sedentary lifestyle (and the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese as a result)
- chronic neck, wrist, or back pain
- fear of missing out
- low self-esteem
- poor body image.
On a positive note, not all screen time is equal. Some very beneficial actions can be performed, after all.
- For example, a phone or tablet can be used to foster positive relationships with extended family members. Making that weekly video call to your cousins or Grandma helps keep those relationships close.
Allowing your kids to spend an hour or two watching educational videos with a caretaker on a Saturday afternoon while you buy groceries is another example of quality screen time.
How to Set Healthy Limits on Screen Time
So keeping in mind that screen time, in moderation, isn’t all negative, how can you as a parent set limits?
- Be a model of positive behavior
- Explain why you are setting limits
- Find a good motivation
- Set specific no-screen-times throughout the day
- Have tech-free zones in your home
- Schedule physical activity
- Replace the screen time with something equally interesting
- Remember that it's a process.
Each of these new household rules is explained fully below.
Be a Model of Positive Behavior
Your kids won’t see the reason behind cutting back if you keep checking your smartphone first thing in the morning, or scroll through a tablet when you have nothing to do.
Explain Why You're Setting Limits
Lest you come across as "the bad guy" or "a meanie," make your kids aware of the negative effects of too much screen time.
Talk about missing out on healthy interactions with friends, or getting distracted often and doing poorly in school.
Tie the Benefits of Cutting Back to Your Kid's Personal Goal
There are very few things that can motivate your kids to reduce their screen time other than being able to achieve a goal.
If your child is learning to play the violin and hopes to perform in a recital, explain that devoting that extra 20 minutes after doing homework to practice instead of playing games on her tablet will yield tremendous improvement after a few months.
If he wants to pass his soccer or baseball tryouts, explain how that one hour spent in the early weekend mornings practicing instead of staying indoors to play video games can help earn him a jersey.
Designate a Specific “No-Screen Time” Throughout the Day
Set aside your phones and tablets during meals, and enjoy your uninterrupted time together.
Since the blue light of a screen can cause poor sleep, make sure to get rid of all handheld devices an hour before you put your kids to bed.
Leave Certain Places in Your Home Free of Devices
This could be the bathroom, the dining area, your kids’ study area, and the bedroom.
Make Time for Physical Activity
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the negative effects of spending long hours staring at a screen. Make sure to regularly get together as a family to exercise.
Getting physical can be made much less of a pain if you do something everyone will enjoy. Dance to upbeat tunes, play with your pets, go outside for a brisk walk, ride bicycles, or throw a frisbee around at the park.
Introduce Your Kids to Other Activities
Sometimes your kids will complain, "I’m bored!" during those random times at home when you have nothing planned for them.
In order to reduce the temptation to reach for their phones or tablets, make them choose from several activities that don’t involve staring at a screen.
Have a few of those paint-by-the number kits ready, and encourage your kids to explore their artistic side.
There’s also the thrill and challenge of collecting dried leaves and pressing flowers for a science journal. This can help your kids develop patience while following procedures.
Games like Twister, Monopoly, Scrabble, and Pictionary have remained popular among children of all ages for good reasons. You can also try Uno, dominoes, Boggle, or Jenga.
Understand That Cutting Back is a Process
Your kids will be making adjustments, and you might face resistance once in a while. Keep a positive attitude until they have reasonably reduced their screen time.
© 2022 Ronali dela Cruz