Keep your children’s screen time habits from becoming unhealthy with these realistic ways to limit screen time.
Today’s children spend a great deal of time staring at screens, and it shows. About 17% of American children qualify as obese, and many continue unhealthy habits throughout life. Cellphone addiction threatens interpersonal relationships with friends and family.
How can you limit your child’s screen time without creating unnecessary drama and tension? It’s not as difficult as you think. Begin by examining your own habits, then get your kiddos involved in engaging activities that stimulate their minds and bodies. Here’s how.
1. Examine Your Habits
Do you use your cellphone at the dinner table? If your phone rings while you’re engaged in family time, do you answer it? What do you do to relax? Do you take a walk or read a book — or mindlessly surf on social media?
Few would suggest disconnecting entirely, but limiting your own screen time is crucial. Kids learn through imitation, and they also have an inherent sense of fairness. If you’re yelling at them about their screen time without limiting your own, they’ll call you out on your hypocrisy. Shouting and slammed doors will follow.
Set limits on your screen time use. If you have a newer iPhone or Android, you can adjust the settings to limit your time effortlessly. You can also download apps to monitor how much time you spend on your phone. Make limiting your own time a challenge and give yourself a small reward each week if you manage to reduce it.
Invest in a stylish family charging station for your kitchen or living room. About 30 minutes before bedtime, have everyone power down their devices and plug them in to charge. Blue lights from devices interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin, making getting adequate rest difficult. Establish a device-free zone in bedrooms during sleep time.
2. Get Them Outside
In one generation alone, outdoor playtime dropped by a staggering 71 percent in the U.S. Parents used to insist children head outdoors to play. However, today, concerns about crime and potential liability compel many parents to use TVs and computers as baby-sitters.
Take your children to the park for 30 minutes whenever weather permits. As your children grow more independent, you can use this time to get exercise yourself by walking the grounds. While they’re younger, you can still get a workout in by playing, climbing and sliding with them.
3. Take Them to the Library
Many moms read to their unborn children when they’re still in utero, but as children age, many fall out of the habit. However, kids who read regularly enjoy higher levels of academic success, stronger cognitive skills and improved speech. MRI scans of children show more activity in the area of the brain responsible for language development and visual imaging.
Help foster a lifelong love of reading in your child by taking them to the library. Allowing children to select books encourages them to find authors and genres they love. Institute a family reading hour once or twice per week where you all read together. Read to your children when they’re young, and, as they grow, allow them to read independently and share what they’ve enjoyed. You can also encourage older children to use their pre-bedtime disconnect period for getting lost in a book.
4. Make Family Mealtime Screen-Free
Far too many families don’t eat dinner together anymore. Bring back the family dinner and reconnect with the ones you love most. Turn off the TV and sit down at the table. Prohibit device use during mealtimes.
Get kids involved in meal preparation, too — you may discover you have a budding Emeril Lagasse or Stephanie Izard on your hands. At the table, allow each family member equal time to share about their day. If you’re stumped for ideas, invest in an inexpensive deck of conversation-starter cards and get to know each other better.
5. Use a Combo App and Reward System
Ideally, you teach your kids to limit their screen time by encouraging them to exercise self-control. However, you can still get friendly with parental controls. Tons of apps help you restrict screen time and block inappropriate site content at the same time. This has the bonus of keeping your children safer when they do go online.
It isn’t sufficient to set it and forget it when it comes to apps, though. Just like you reward yourself for reaching your goal of reducing screen time, do the same for your children.
Schedule a weekly check-in where each family member shares the amount they reduced their screen time use for the week. Remember, progress, not perfection — allow children a say in setting their weekly reduction goals. Each week, every family member who honored their commitment gets a special reward. These need not cost money — prizes can consist of selecting the family dinner or the film for movie night.
Limiting Screen Time Need Not Become a Battle
Simply enforcing limits on screen time often backfires and leads to arguments. Instead, use the tips above to make reducing it easier. Your children will grow up healthier and less prone to falling prey to technology addiction.
Writer & Blogger, Mindfulness Mama
Do you want more help with creating a perfect screen time balance for your kids? Check out my screen freeze system.
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