7 Simple Ways to Limit Screen Time for Kids
We now have another study warning parents that too much screen time—that is, time spent in front of the TV screen, computer, tablet or smartphone—can cause sleep problems in children. Many moms and dads are wondering how they can help limit the time their kids spend in front of those ever-present media screens.
While the change can be gradual, if you feel “cold turkey” would upset the balance of your household too much, you can find ways to limit your child’s intake of television, computer, handheld and any other media screen time. You can start by talking to your kids about the very real dangers of too much screen time. Once they understand that you aren’t just being mean, you’ll likely have an easier time setting the screen limits.
Here are seven ways to help you do just that:
Be the Role Model
First and foremost, if you want your kids to spend less time in front of a television or engrossed in a video game, you have to be the role model and reduce your own screen time. Don't eat in front of the TV, don't use the TV as background noise, and stay off your smartphone while you're having a conversation. Kids will follow the example of their parents. If they don’t see you having real interactions and taking a break from tech, they won’t be motivated to do it themselves.
Set a Firm Screen Schedule and ‘Unplugged’ Times
Setting and sticking to a firm screen schedule will help your entire family be disciplined with screen use. Make certain times of day “unplugged” times for everyone, like during meal times and at least an hour before bed. Then, make sure to set parameters like only one show before homework, for example. Kids can easily adapt to disciplines when you stick with them.
Make Screen Time a Rewarded Privilege
Making screen time a rewarded privilege is a great way to limit it and teach your kids that they can do things they enjoy once they’ve done the things that need to be done. Give them screen time (and let them choose how to use it) for completing chores, finishing homework, making behavioral improvements or any other kind of goal or success you want them to reach. This not only helps them with goal-setting, it makes screen time more enjoyable and cherished, instead of merely zone-out time.
Establish a ‘No Tech Zone’
An easy way to begin limiting screen time for your kids is to establish specific “no technology” zones. These are areas where there will never be screen time of any kind. The dining room is a perfect place to encourage conversation by leaving the screens in the other room. The car is another place where chats, games and sing-alongs can enhance family time while screens are tucked away.
Use Device Controls and Stay Savvy
The good news for parents trying to limit screen time is that many tech devices come equipped with parental controls. Use these controls to help set limits for your kids. Smartphones and tablets have apps that will log a kid out after his time is up. Televisions can be set on timers with channels limited to what kids should be watching. Stay savvy about tools you can use, as well as what apps kids are using so you know how they’re using their tech.
Encourage Other Activities
One of the best ways to keep your kids from having their eyes glued to a screen is to give them other activities to do. Many kids just don’t know what to do when they aren’t staring at a computer or TV. Teach them games. Play with them. Send them outside with a ball, some bubbles or a hula-hoop.
Remove All Screens From the Bedroom
Finally, if you do anything, make sure you remove any and all screens from children’s bedrooms. If the bedroom is a tech-free zone, your child will be able to have quiet time before bed and learn to entertain himself without game systems, computers or a television.