5 Ways to Help Your Kids Limit Screen Time
We all know that too much screen time for kids is a problem. It can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, sleep problems, poor academic performance and more. In fact, according to a recent Chatelaine survey of moms aged 35 to 45, the top source of guilt for moms is the amount of screen time their children are getting.
But as most parents know, drawing boundaries and setting rules in the home for TV, video games, apps, and everything else with a screen is easier said than done. Homework is often done on a laptop, so how can you limit their Fortnite playing time while ensuring they finish their English assignment? Here are five methods that will help train your kids to spend less time in front of a screen without making them think Mom and Dad are spoilsports.
- Model Appropriate Screen Use
You are your child’s reference point for appropriate, healthy behavior. If you would like them to develop a limited relationship to screens, it’s important to model that behavior yourself. Don’t check your smartphone constantly. Don’t install a TV in every room of your home. Avoid binge-watching shows and YouTube videos every weekend.Schedule family activities like weekend hikes or camping trips, board game nights, and evenings playing sports to ensure your kids aren’t connected to their Nintendo Switch at all hours of the day. Parents are tempted to overly monitor screen use, but hovering can lead to more confrontation. Instead, discourage excessive screen use in general.
- Set a Schedule
One way to limit arguments and passive aggressive behavior when it’s time to turn off screens is to set a strict screen time limit so there aren’t surprises. One idea is to allow kids 30 minutes of TV or video games before they head to school in the morning, while you shower or make breakfast. This also guarantees they’ll get out of bed on time to catch the latest episode of their favorite Netflix show.You can also choose one hour in the evening, either at a set time (7 to 8 p.m.) or after a certain event (after homework is finished, or after dinner). Establishing a routine from a young age will ideally set your child up for better habits as they head to high school and have trickier daily schedules.How much is too much screen use? According to Psychology Today high schoolers spend an average of 9 hours a day looking at screens — that’s more than a full-time job! More than two hours a day on social media is proven to cause social anxiety. The writers of Psychology Today suggest parents limit screen time to 60 to 90 minutes per day.
- Encourage Productive Screen Use
Screens are a part of life in 2019, and some of the most lucrative careers — software engineer, graphic designer, etc. — require 40-plus hours a week of computer use. Instead of telling your middle schooler or high schooler that using screens is always harmful, consider making them justify their screen use.Ask your children to explain why they are using a screen when they do. This explicit conversation will make them actively consider whether what they are doing is constructive or a distraction. Encourage them to try a variety of “active” screen uses as they age, from editing a video to learning how to code or designing a website. If they love video games, ask them what elements of the design appeal to them — maybe they’ll create their own games one day!
- Monitor Usage
There’s also the issue of digital homework. Teens need time on their computers to do research and complete their assignments. How do you ensure devices are being used productively without constantly looking over your kid’s shoulder?Psychology Today suggests that concerned parents install monitoring apps to understand their teen’s browsing history and device use. The app MobSafety Ranger Browser allows you to view your kid’s web browsing history and to set time limits. Norton allows you to filter content and set time limits for smartphones. There are countless apps designed to help parents monitor and understand the screen use of their kids — it’s up to you to determine which ones work best for your family.
- Establish Screen-Free Zones
Tired of seeing your kids scrolling incessantly when you’re out to eat as a family? One great way to avoid that conundrum is to establish the dining room or kitchen as a device-free zone. Parents can establish physical boundaries that encourage conversation and facilitate organic family time.If you are concerned about your kids playing video games late into the night in their room or fully giving into a Snapchat addiction, consider making their bedroom a screen-free area as well. They can still check their phone or watch TV in the living room, but this way you can supervise and keep track of how long they are “plugged in.”
Set strict time limits and install apps if appropriate to monitor screen use proactively. With some perseverance, your kids will mature into adults who use screens to understand and contribute to their world, rather than to escape from it.