We celebrate the convenience and entertainment of the many electronic gadgets in my home. However, with all of these tempting gadgets, it can be easy for parents to lose track of their children’s daily log of screen time. In some homes— certainly in mine—children try to stretch the daily limit, because their phones, shows, games, and apps are fun. And they’re everywhere.
So why would you want to limit screen time? According to the Mayo Clinic, too much screen time can lead to problems, including obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, and violence. What is a reasonable limit? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of TV, movies, video, and computer games. With so many entertaining options, successfully limiting screen time can be challenging.
Here are a few tips to help tame
that screen-time temptress:
Track screen time for your children for one week. If they spend more time on screens than you are comfortable with, make a plan for change.
Talk to your children about how their screen time fits with the rest of their lives. Agree to a daily limit that suits your family and the age of your children.
Brace yourself, because change may not be easy. If your children’s total consumption is significantly more than two hours per day, reduce it gradually, celebrating milestones along the way.
For younger children, keep remotes and gadgets in one area to be “signed out.” You can start a timer when you hand over a “key” to the electronic world.
Have your children earn screen time like an allowance. Do a chore and they can get 15 minutes, up to an hour a day during the week or two hours on weekends.
Keep electronics in plain view so that you can monitor what your children are watching or doing online, and for how long.
How about a screen time “fast”? Do a day of no screen time as a family challenge, or make the fast a regular event.
Consider switching to basic cable so there is less enticement to watch television. Beware the power of streaming, for kids and grown ups alike.
Keep TVs, computers, and other devices out of bedrooms. Researchers at Stanford University found the light from screens just before bed can postpone sleepiness by three hours. Consider having a device basket, or charging stations where all devices go when the family heads to bed.
Most important: help your kids to discover what makes them tick. On following pages, we introduce you to kids who have found their own creative alternatives to screen time. See if their examples inspire your family!