5 Tips to Curb Screen Time

5 Tips to Curb Screen Time

Most of us parents are guilty of using screens to help entertain kids, whether it be in the car, or just as a distraction so we can get one more thing done. Technology is certainly helpful when it comes to teaching and entertaining our kids, but it’s wise to set some limits and keep tabs on how much time they are really spending in front of a screen.

One of the unique things about this generation is that the internet and screen time is something they have had from day one.

They don’t know life without websites and time online. The unique challenge that comes with this generation is knowing how to set boundaries and use screen time as something beneficial rather than relying on it to simply occupy our kids.

So we know kids generally spend too much time on screens, but how much time should they be spending? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that:

  • Children under 2 should avoid screens altogether, and
  • Kids and teens should spend no more than 1 to 2 hours per day in front of a screen. (That’s 1 to 2 hours total, not per screen session.)

As parents, it’s our job to help our kids learn to manage this time and use it in a way that will benefit them.

We all know how easy it is to let 10 minutes turn into 30 and 1 hour turn into 2. But this extra screen time doesn’t come without a price. The AAP also states that studies have shown that excessive media can “lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.” Basically, nothing good comes from too much screen time.

Kids are constantly learning, and when we allow too much screen time, they lose opportunities to interact with their environment.

Alright, so we know that too much screen time is bad. But how do we enforce limits and create an environment where our kids can enjoy technology without overdoing it? The answer is in having a family culture of being active and setting boundaries on how we will use screen time in our homes.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. “Screen-Free Zones.” The AAP recommends creating “screen-free zones” in your home. These are places where we simply don’t have electronics. Many people have “screen-free” bedrooms. No matter what zones you choose, it’s important that you as the parent set up boundaries with electronics.

2. Get outside! I think most people can agree that kids need more time outside and less time indoors. There are so many benefits to get outside and being active. So turn off the screens and get out there!

3. Unplug and engage. Go back to the basics with books, board games, and simple conversation. Get your kids talking and interacting. Take a visit to the library or the local children’s museum.

4. Let them be bored. How often do we hear a request for technology followed by the phrase “But I’m so bored!” Boredom is good for kids and their imaginations. Boredom inspires free play and helps kids get creative. Letting them be “bored” for a while forces them to figure out how to entertain themselves.

Bottom line, it’s okay for your kids to get bored!

5. Pay attention.  I know I’m guilty of zoning out and letting my littles be entertained in front of the TV. And pretty soon, that 20 minutes has turned into an hour. Just by being a little more present and paying attention to how much time our kids are spending in front of their screens can help us curb the total amount of time they spend. If you need to (and I often do), set a timer. Often it’s easier if the timer tells your child that screen time is over rather than the parent always doing the nagging. Find a strategy that works for your family and stick to it.

Overall, technology is something we all have to deal with. And it’s wise to teach our kids while they are young how to manage their time with electronics and get them into good active habits. We are only doing them a favor when we set boundaries and stick to them. 

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