How to Limit Children’s Screen Time
*Guest Post by Ariana Williams
We didn’t have screens growing up. We had all sorts of things to do with our friends. We rode our bikes, climbed trees, and made big messes without craft supplies. Now, children can get a taste of nearly anything they want without ever leaving the couch – be it through YouTube, social media, or video games. It’s no wonder screens are so addictive!
However, despite all the benefits of technology, being glued to a screen can’t possibly be healthy. Are your children missing out on valuable life experiences because their tech is replacing the world around them? You might need to find some creative ways to transition them from their screens and into the real world – without them getting angry about it.
Fill Up Some Time with Fun Outdoor Activities
The American Heart Association is warning parents about the health risks associated with too much screen use. Since screen time is sedentary and an excessive use of screens permits lengthy periods of sitting around, kids and teens aren’t getting nearly enough exercise. This has been linked to an increase in health problems like cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Get some fun things for your kids to do outside that don’t involve screens. Some children might be wild about the idea of planting and growing a family garden, or building a wooden tree house (or even a cardboard fort if you prefer a safer option). They might have been doing those exact things in their
favorite video games, and now they will have a chance to experience the real deal.
Similarly, sports equipment will encourage kids to blow off some steam in the back yard. You might need to participate in the fun too, but that’s just another benefit. Find something your child likes to do that involves movement, and encourage them to do that before they run for their electronics.
If you’re having a difficult time persuading your children to play outdoors, at the very least ask them to draw something. Most children enjoy drawing, and with a little bit of creativity, you can easily turn it into an engaging competition. Your kids might spend some time in the garden or backyard, drawing. It won’t be as healthy for them as riding a bike or playing football, but at least they are not glued to the screens again.
Monitor Their Online Activities
If your child spends a disproportionate amount of time focused on one single activity, this could be considered an unhealthy obsession. Are you familiar with your child’s social media habits? If your child is using screens for online tutoring or some other activity that may be considered productive, screen time might be less of a concern for you. If your child is spending hours mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, the problem may be the activity more than the screen.
Rather that eliminating or restricting screens specifically, target the behavior. Eliminate or restrict counterproductive and consuming habits your child relies upon those screens for.
Change Their Relationships with Screens
Not all screens are created equally. Although parents are divided on the issue, some screens may be beneficial to children. Something like an eReader might be productive for your child, provided your child isn’t using that eReader to play mindless app games or stream videos. An eReader with parental controls enabled that doesn’t have any valueless apps installed might be a decent compromise. Your child gets a screen, but the screen is better for them.
The same goes for children who use screens to stream. Watching a science based YouTube channel is a better way to spend time than watching someone do video game walkthroughs for hours on end. Try to come to a compromise. Your child can spend an hour on YouTube if at least half of that time teaches them something useful.
Give Screen Time a New Priority Order
Children don’t often react favorably when told that they can’t have something. It may be a better idea to tell them that they can have it, but only if certain requirements are being met. Create a list of things they have to do before screen time is an option. When the house is clean, homework is done, studying has been accomplished, and everyone has had dinner together, you can create a little gap for screen time before bed.
Enrich Their Lives with Productive Hobbies
What else could your kids be doing instead? Kids often go on little flights on fancy. Maybe they want to be a ballerina, or an ice hockey player, or a famous cellist. Let them take lessons or go to classes. It’s okay if your child ultimately discovers that their ambition was limited – they tried, and attempting to learn something new is far more productive than staring at a screen. It’s a valuable life experience that may help them discover and develop interests that will continue into adulthood. Best of all, most classes and lessons don’t require screens!
Changing some schedules and restructuring some habits can keep your kids away from screens, or at least improve their relationships with screens. They won’t hate you if they’ve having fun or they don’t feel deprived. There may be an adjustment period, but it will be worth it in the end. After all, all you want is to see your children happy, healthy, and thriving.
Ariana Williams is a pedagogy graduate and a tutor with an unquenched love for teaching children and teenagers. She also has a knack for writing, and occasionally shares her tips with other students, schools, and parents. If you wish to, visit @AriWilliamsAri and say “hi” to her.