Most parents have been met with the struggle of trying to pry a phone or tablet from the clutches of their child. However, as much of an uphill battle that it may seem, reducing screen time in the home is important, as excessive use can cause both physical and mental health problems, including eye strain, sleep disturbances, and bodily aches and pains. To best reduce the risk of these unwanted effects in both yourself and your family, we’ve put together a guide to some of our top tips to stop screen time from becoming problematic at home.
Lead by example
It goes without saying that if you try to control your child’s screen time without also limiting your own, you’re going to be met with some resistance. This is because kids generally follow the example of adults – and most will want to be doing exactly what everybody else around them is doing at all times.
While young kids may copy their caregiver’s behavior in order to try to emulate them, older children and teenagers may take an alternative approach – perhaps arguing that if you’re allowed to spend time on your screen, they should be, too. In fact, putting some limits on your own screen use is likely to benefit everyone, by not only encouraging your kids to comply with the new way of doing things, but also freeing up some time in your schedule for quality family time.
To avoid any confusion (or a relapse into excessive screen use), you may want to consider creating some sort of structural plan for when everybody in the family is allowed to be on their screens, and when they’re not. This should work really well for families who already make use of some sort of daily structure, such as set dinner times and bedtimes. Families who do things a bit more intuitively may want to start off slow – perhaps scheduling just an hour or so each day for no screen time in order to see how everybody adapts. For a top tip, make sure to schedule your break from screens at the same time for
everybody. This way, kids won’t get bored when they’re the only ones not allowed on their phones – or jealous of siblings who are allowed to watch television when they aren’t.
Introduce other activities
If you’re going to ask your family members to take some time away from their screens, you may want to also think about what they’re going to do instead – and try to make those alternative options as appealing as possible. With a partner, this may look like agreeing between you to have an hour or so to talk at the end of each day. For children, you may want to think about whether or not your home environment is an enriching and entertaining place to be without the need for screens – and add some games or toys, if not. You may also want to consider introducing your kids to an activity that they haven’t tried before, like a craft project, or a sport. You might find that as they become invested in a new activity, the desire to spend time at their screens decreases.
Try not to be too restrictive
Unfortunately, if your approach to screen time is too restrictive too soon, it may become a whole lot more problematic. Children, in general, want what they can’t have – so removing technology from the home or cutting down on screen time too dramatically is likely to just make their phone or laptop that much more desirable.
To get the best results, try to make healthy screen use a collaborative effort, by talking with your kids, and prioritizing interactions with your family throughout the process. This way everybody will feel included, and can work together to stop screen time from becoming problematic at home.
– Article and Resources Contribution by Warren Cooley
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