What are creative or effective ways to limit screen time?
It’s hard to comprehend that according to SanfordHealth.org, the average amount of time a child (between the ages of 8 and 18) spends in front of a screen is roughly 7.5 hours a day. That’s the same amount of time an adult spends on a computer during their average workday.
While it’s good for children to learn technology and feel comfortable using it for school purposes and later in their life, work purposes, spending too much time can have negative effects. Due to that, it’s always good to limit screen time, and we’ll cover some creative ways of doing that below.
Make it a Family Discussion
Talk this over with your family and get everyone on board. Creating an understanding that a limit on screen time is not a punishment, but rather something that will benefit the entire family is key to making it happen with far less friction. Make the agreement to reduce screen time as a family.
Set a Good Example
While it is sometimes easier said than done as adults have work and other obligations that require the use of digital devices, leading by example is the best way to encourage children to reduce their screen time. The bottom line is if they see you doing it less, kids are more likely to do the same.
Log Screen Time vs. Active Time
Find a way to track the time your child spends using a screen, such as TV, video games, computers, or other digital devices such as smartphones or a tablet for things not related to schoolwork, and compare that to how much time children are spending time outside playing or doing something active. This will help create a baseline for how much time is really spent in front of a screen on average.
Set Screen Time Limits
Once you’ve tracked how much time your child spends in front of a screen vs. being active or doing a non-screen-based activity, you can use that data to set screen time limits. The screen time limits can be effective in promoting less screen time and more activities that get children outside to play or involved in other activities like sports or even more family time. The key to this is creating and effectively enforcing the rule.
Create Screen-Free Bedrooms
This might be a harder task to accomplish, especially today when screens are everywhere, but consider not allowing TVs or computers in children’s bedrooms. It should help reduce the amount of time a child spends in front of a screen while they are in there, plus it creates the idea that bedrooms are for sleeping. It may also help children who have issues falling asleep as the blue light from screens is known to cause sleep issues.
Mealtime is Family Time
Set a rule that the dinner table is a screen-free zone. Enforce no phones, tablets, or TVs around or near the dinner table. Mealtime is reserved for food and conversation.
Don’t Use Screen Time as a Reward or Punishment
I recommend against making screen time a type of reward or punishment because once it becomes the reward or a publishment, it is given a certain level of importance. Children will gravitate toward that activity if it’s made out to be important.
Provide Other Options
Provide alternative ideas or activities, such as playing outside, new hobbies or activities, joining a sport, or anything that can be made into a fun activity that does not involve a digital device or screen.
Take Small Steps to Create Long-term Changes
Changes of this nature should be implemented in small steps so as to not create a shock. Making small changes to screen time use will have a lasting impact for the long term and will be more likely to stick. It will also slowly create positive routines.
Consistency is Key
When making any kind of changes of this nature, even small changes over time can create some issues or conflicts but remain consistent. Have a discussion with your child as to why there are limits on screen time usage. In the end, you and your child will both notice the rewards of better sleep, less eye strain and improved mental well-being.
While digital devices may be a great tool for work and convenience for entertainment, there is a negative side to spending too much time in front of a screen. The more time spent in front of a screen, the less time that is spent moving or being active, which can lead to health issues in the long term. Moderation can provide a healthy balance where screens can still be enjoyed, but they do not become overused. The guidelines listed above can certainly help create a more structured environment for screen use.