Tips on How to Dial Back Screen Time in a Digital World
I spend about 75% of my day in front of a screen—and I’m willing to bet that most people spend the same or more time in front of computers, phones, tablets and TVs too. It’s just how life has evolved. We didn’t have smartphones or personal computers 40 years ago, and there’s almost no way to get around using them today. They make our lives more productive, but they can cause us detachment from the world around us.
For kids especially, screens are a blessing and a curse. My daughter has learned some amazing things on YouTube and by playing interactive tablet games… but there are days when her tablet monopolizes her life. It’s why screen time rules have become a thing in our household.
Limiting screen time is something many parents struggle with, but want to employ. If your kids are too attached to their screens and smart devices, here are a few tips for instituting a good screen time control policy:
- Have set “device hours” when kids know it’s okay for them to use different screens. For example, make screen time 5-8pm each night—no devices before or after these hours. It’s great for getting kids into the mentality of using screens only at certain times, for a specific amount of time.
- Set screen time caps and have a log. Tell your kids, “you get 3 hours of screen time today.” It gives them the freedom to pick and choose when they want to use devices. Kids learn to control their own circumstances and deal with the repercussions of misappropriating their time.
- In the same vein as screen time caps, create a screen time “bank.” Kids earn screen time by doing things not related to their devices. 30 minutes earned for doing their homework right after school. 30 minutes earned for completing a chore. Kids learn to earn, save and manage their screen time, and parents control how much is ultimately doled out.
- Control the supply! If screen use is rampant in your home, become a gatekeeper for devices. Sometimes it’s best for kids to get used to doing things other than looking at their screens, and taking away devices cold turkey is a quick way to do that. Keep in mind this can come off as unfair or harsh to kids, so make sure to explain why you’re confiscating devices and be prepared to outline when and how they can get them back.
- Sometimes the best way to break the addiction to screens is to provide a better alternative! Kids will willingly put down their devices if there’s something more interesting and exciting to be done. Or, if you enroll them in a sport or club, they simply won’t have time to stay glued to their devices.
As kids get older, screen time will become more and more central to their lives. Eventually, they’ll end up like us adults, using screens for a majority of the day. Before their time is taken over by devices, make sure your kids get to experience a little of what the tangible world around them has to offer!