Gone is the time of kids spending their days outside from dawn ‘til dusk. Now, children are fixated on screens of all shapes and sizes. Whether it be the television, a tablet, a smart phone, or a laptop, modern kids have access to a lot of technology and often choose it over exploring the great outdoors.
It’s easy to forget about our quiet and occupied children when they’re on their devices, but despite the peaceful atmosphere screen time can create in our homes, we need to set limits for the benefit of our children’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Is your child addicted to video games? Check out How to Help Your Child With a Video Game Addiction.
Set a Timer
Figure out a reasonable increment of screen time that you feel comfortable with for your kids. Set a timer and tell them they need to find something else non-screen related to do once the timer goes off. A screen with an already built-in timer is a good way to avoid a discussion once time has expired. Not only does this limit the amount of time your kids are on screens, but it also makes them appreciate that time more and be more selective about how they spend it. If you think it’s fair and prudent to do so, allow them one more session later in the day.
Use a Screen Basket
Keep all smaller and handheld screens in a “screen basket” that’s kept in a common area, such as the kitchen. Whenever the devices are turned off, have your kids gently place them in the basket so you know they’re not covertly in use. This is especially effective at nighttime to ensure your children aren’t “sneaking” the screens under their covers and putting off going to sleep.
Screen Time as a Reward or Penalty
Some kids respond to rewards; some respond to penalties. Screens make excellent collateral in this regard. If your child does a chore, they can earn fifteen minutes of screen time. On the other hand, if they ignore your request to do a chore, they lose fifteen minutes of screen time. Keep a chart on the fridge to help you keep track, or download the free How to Earn Screen Bucks Printable Pack.
Facilitate Outdoor Play
Make your yard a fun and safe place that is full of outdoor activities for kids. Purchase outdoor play items such as balls, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, bikes, scooters, and other fun toys and activities to encourage them to choose going outside over hibernating indoors on screens. Allow them to invite their friends over to play. This will require more supervision on your part, but your kids will make memories that will last a lifetime. Head out on a walk together; there are lots of things to do on a walk with kids. No one looks back fondly on a day wasted staring at a screen, but they will look back and remember the times spent with friends and family.
Sign Your Child up for an Activity
If all else fails and your child is absolutely addicted to screens, sign him or her up for an activity outside of the home. Before you do so, take some time to find out what your child is truly interested in. No point in signing a potential soccer player up for piano lessons, or a great artist up for basketball camp, unless of course they indeed have such a wide variety of interests. Play to their strengths and open up a new world of fun to them that they didn’t realize existed before. Help them to discover their passion, and screens will be long since forgotten as a way to occupy their time.
Technology can be a wonderful thing! Moms and Dads are often just as guilty of spending too much time on screens as our kids are. However, we grew up in a different world and benefited from boredom and ingenuity to keep ourselves busy. Force your kids to use their imaginations, soak up some sun outdoors, or learn a new skill. Someday they’ll thank you for it. Hopefully in person and not electronically!!
Want some tips for keeping your child safe online? Check out Practical Ways to Help Keep Your Child Safe Online.