In today’s screen-filled world, limiting time spent in front of TVs, on the phone or on the tablet can seem like a near impossible task. In addition, with the disruption many kids endured due to the pandemic and schools being closed, maintaining reduced screen time hasn’t been easy.
While it may take some time to get into, making some simple changes and substitutions in your child’s day can really have a positive impact on how much time they spend in front of a screen.
Here are some steps I took to help my son reduce how much time was spent on his tablet.
Set realistic goals
When it comes to reducing the amount of time your child spends glued to a TV or tablet, it is important to first establish how much time of their day is actually spent using them. It is ambitious to drastically alter the indulgence of screen time all in one go but this may end up in tears for both you and them. Unfortunately, when children are accustomed to having their tablet or TV on for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the times in-between, it takes a slow, gradual reduction of usage to get them to begin to stop relying on using their tablet or watching TV in conjunction with everyday tasks like eating meals. Don’t pressure yourself by setting specific time frames and then trying to stick to them; rather, try to reduce the usage day by day and if possible, alternate those reductions at different times of the day. That way, it’s not anticipated and may be met with less resistance. If consistent, eventually your child won’t even miss the tablet or TV and may even opt to putting it down and taking a break without any prompting from you.
Slow and steady wins this race.
Let them choose
When trying to subsititute their screen time with something else, try giving your child choices. Rather than saying, “Get off your tablet and do something else”, try asking them questions about what they could do instead. Do you want to do a puzzle? How about you get your colours out and do some colouring? And, if you can get involved, even better. Asking them these questions, makes them break their concentration from the screen, gives them a chance to think and consider something else they might like to do.
Further, sometimes our children would rather ditch their electronics and jump at the oppurtunity to do something with Mum or Dad. Encourage them to help with preparing dinner or get them outside to help with sorting the recycling or help you with the gardening.
Giving your child options makes them feel more in control of how their time is spent not in front of a screen and putting this into practice will allow them to develop this on their own.
Put devices out of reach
In some instances, it may be necessary to simply put these devices out of reach. Place the tablets and phones in a cupboard or on top of the fridge and stash the TV remotes. This may seem cruel but trust me, your child may not even miss it. You may be surprised to find that when these items are consistently not readily accessible, your child is not attracted to using them and so they will occupy their time in a different, more productive way.
If you have a specific time of day you want to reduce usage, like for instance, first thing in the morning before school, make sure the tablet and TV remotes are not easily in reach every morning when your child wakes up. Eventually, they will get so accustomed to not having screen time every morning before school that you may be able to leave the tablet charging or TV remote in plain sight.
It’s all about routine.
Set up a fun outdoor activity
Most kids love playing outdoors, don’t they? But sometimes, it’s the lack of stimulation outdoors or the monotony of their scooters or bicycles that have them running back inside to turn on the TV within ten minutes.
If you’re struggling with this, try finding some fun outdoorsy activities to encourage them to stay outside for a longer period of time. Consider simple activites such as outside chalk or timed scooter racing.
If you want to get even more creative and you have the time, why not try organising a bug scavenger hunt or a flower or bird watch. You can buy some pots for outdoor painting and plant flower seeds or let them start their own little vegetable garden.
If you want inspiration for outdoorsy things to do with the kids, Google or Pinterest have a great library of outdoor activities at your disposal.
Any time outdoors is time not spent in front of the screen.
Don’t stress about it
Lastly, don’t stress about it too much. There are many studies that suggest that too much screen time can have a negative impact on your child. However, screen time is but a morsel of your child’s day to day and as long as they are actively involved in other activities whether it be school, extra curricular or out of school clubs, the time spent at home in front of a screen is not something to lose any sleep over.
Try your best to ensure your child has a healthy routine and balance overall when it comes to screen time and if you are really concerned about it, then give the above tips a try.
For some of us mums, we rely on that time of day when our children are otherwise pre-occupied to get things done and if that time is spent in front of a TV or tablet, rest assured you’re not failing in the good parent department. In the meantime, limiting the presence of screens in other areas like their bedrooms or the kitchen and setting no-screen time during meals are some good first steps to establishing a healthy balance.