If you’re like many parents these days, you find that you’re regularly trying to get your child to look away from a screen and pay attention to something you’re saying or what’s going on in the world around them. It’s a common issue because kids of varying ages are spending an increasing number of hours staring at screens.
Now, while you don’t want to stop your child from watching the occasional show — or using their computer for homework or — playing on their smart phone to utilize an app to build reading or math skills — it does pay to ensure that screen time doesn’t take over life completely. Here are some ways you can go about limiting your child’s screen time effectively in the future.
Know What You Want to Achieve
For starters, when it comes to getting your child away from screens, it’s important to get clear on your goals. What is it that you specifically want to achieve? For example, perhaps you want your child to only have access to screens for a certain number of hours per day or week, or perhaps you want to reduce the variety of screens they stare at or the type of content they have access to.
It is wise, too, to work out how you will tell if the goals you put in place are met. To be able to tell this, you need to make your goals measurable, with end dates. For instance, after a month of putting in place new screen-time rules, what changes do you hope to see? Do you have ideas about what steps to take next if these goals aren’t met? The more you think and plan in advance, the easier the whole process will be.
Consider What Boxes Must Be Ticked First
When it comes to screen time, you should also be aware of what boxes must be ticked before kids can start their screen time. Some parents decide that their children have to complete certain chores or other responsibilities, such as homework, before they’re allowed to access screens each day. Other parents have priorities when it comes to how much family time is spent together. For instance, they may create a rule that family members need to eat together, wash up and play a game or otherwise connect before screen time is permitted at the end of the day.
Something else to consider is whether the amount of screen time your children are allowed is based around their age or not. If so, you might let them know that their total number of weekly screen hours will rise once they have their next birthday. You could increase their weekly allowance by 3.5 hours each birthday (so 30 minutes per day), provided that they showcase a corresponding increase in maturity level.
On the other hand, if your child is a teenager who has recently started acting out in some way, or who has been showing signs of difficulty with self-discipline, you might decide to decrease their screen-time limit until they seem better able to handle their responsibilities.
Supervise Screen Time
To reduce the amount of time your kids are looking at screens, you will likely need to be vigilant. Children are often addicted to screens (as are adults!), so they may try to find ways around the limits you have put in place.
To ensure kids stay on track, it helps to supervise screen time wherever possible. You may want to, for those times when you’re not in the house, look at putting in place specific online parental controls. This way, your kids won’t access content you don’t want them to when you’re at work or otherwise out.
Keep in Mind the Variety of Screens in Your Child’s Life
Another tip to keep in mind when limiting screen time is that to do so effectively you need to be cognizant of just how many screens your child may have access to in your home. While in the past screen time only meant time spent watching a TV screen, today kids have access to a variety of options.
In your home, you could have a dozen different screens in total, including things like tablets, smart phones, laptops, desktop computers, TVs, projector screens, e-readers, video game consoles and the like. To cut back on your child’s total screen time then, factor in all these possibilities. To keep total time at a level you feel comfortable with, you might choose to put in a total daily or weekly limit across all screens or cut out access to some screens in particular.