Being a parent comes with constant worry and decision making. Something that we always struggle with is ‘how much screen time is too much?’ Taking into consideration that most schoolwork and homework is done online these days, as parents we need to decide what amount we are comfortable with. Enforcing less screen time at home without your child realising it comes down to getting the whole family onboard. Lay some ground rules that the whole house can abide to – and it helps if the adults of the household can stick to some rules too.
Set an example
How many times do you check your phone while you are sitting at the dinner table? Has your family time been eclipsed by individual device use? One way to enforce less screen time is to set an example for your children. Instead of pulling out your phone and allowing everyone to sit around with their phones in one hand, put your phones away and spark up a conversation instead. We have a strict no phone (or any other device) rule at the dinner table. Our children are quick to pull us up on it whenever we slip even if it’s to take a work call.
Offer other entertaining ideas
Children today are so used to turning to technology to entertain them that they will often complain that they have nothing else to do. Try setting up a boredom bin with a whole host of activities and a list of suggestions that they can turn to when they have run out of ideas. You can add things such as:
- arts and crafts
- board games
- backyard fun
- scavenger hunt
- pack of cards
Let your child be bored
Although entertaining your child from time to time is okay, it’s also okay (and healthy) to let your child be bored. You don’t need to always have something lined up for them to do. When you’re enforcing less screen time, you’re helping your child develop their creative side. There is plenty of research to show the importance of boredom in helping your child succeed later in life. Boredom sparks creativity which in turn fosters innovation.
Set up strict timeframes
It can be easy to turn off the television or take your child’s phone away when you feel they have had enough screen time. We find that giving our children plenty of warning negates the tantrums. We call out a countdown in five minutes intervals starting with “TV off in 15 minutes”. We don’t love being told to drop what we are doing immediately and nor do our children. We also set a weekly technology allowance for how long they will have access to devices each day/week to manage their expectations.
If you can’t beat them, join them
Finally, if these ideas aren’t working, use the screen time to your advantage. Watch YouTube clips with your child on how to build things, then go create something with them. Our children spent a whole summer in the midst of a heatwave, building “Rube Goldberg machines” after watching an inspiring video. Or sit down and let your child explain the ins and outs of the Minecraft world they built. Better yet, learn to Minecraft with them! By spending time with your child, doing something they enjoy, you’ll develop a closer bond.