Children’s screen time is something that most parents are a little worried about, so today’s post is about tips to limit screen time.
Most of us adults grew up with television and computer games, but we didn’t have the incredible wealth of tablets, cell phones, and handheld gaming consoles that many children have access to today did. We also didn’t have the constant pull of the internet and social media platforms sucking us in and constantly demanding our attention.
There is a lot to suggest that the internet has turned children’s brains into mush and that they have attention spans shorter than a goldfish!
Many kids are glued to their screens for hours each day, and let’s be honest, it’s an easy form of parenting for us parents!
But we all know that too much screen time can affect our physical and mental health. If you spend your day indoors watching TV, playing computer games, or scrolling through social media, you’ll feel “so-so.” You feel lethargic and tired, there’s some kind of tension, and you feel like you can’t completely switch off and relax. Your brain is ready to fight the zombies that might be lurking under your couch. There is also a selective nature to social media, which can lead to comparison issues and self-doubt.
So how do we limit screen time for our kids in a world where we’re all addicted to our devices? And for older kids whose entire lives are surrounded by their phones? How can we stop it!?
Taking devices away from kids isn’t solving the problem
All the other articles I’ve read online about limiting screen time for kids include keeping devices away from kids, turning off Wi-Fi, and using parental controls to only use devices for a limited number of hours a day is focused on setting up. Sure, setting limits will reduce your screen time, but it won’t solve the problem.
You can take the iPad away from your child and set limits on how long they can spend using it, but wouldn’t it be better to raise your child with someone who doesn’t want to be glued to an iPad? Play Minecraft Why not teach them something more fun to do?
Screen time doesn’t need to be the enemy
Before I go any further, I really need to point out that I’m not against screen time for kids at all. I love gadgets and technology and 90% of my job is all online and sharing my daily activities via social media. I love the internet. I love social media. I love the game!
i love going to bed early with my iPad, scrolling mindlessly, video chatting with friends, browsing and watching utter crap on YouTube…sorry… It means watching quality programming on the BBC! I’m glued to the screen even during my morning workout!
And I love this stuff so much that I think my kids will too!
I have nothing against screen time for kids.
in fact, I think it’s amazing and a lot of fun. Children’s devices can be educational, social and stimulating, and may also encourage physical activity. And don’t forget that your iPad is a lifesaver on long journeys. How did parents survive long flights before the iPad was invented? My kids love watching old travel videos on YouTube and it keeps them entertained for a really long time!
But while I’m a big advocate of getting outdoors and having hobbies, when you’re stuck indoors and your devices distract you or take up too much screen time. It can lead you off track.
So here are my top tips for reducing screen time for kids
1. Don’t focus on screen time limits for kids – Focus on the alternative activities
For me, devices are not the enemy and it’s not about taking away screen time or forcing certain limits on my kids. It means putting kids in situations where they don’t want screens, and it often means creating alternative activities for them.
For some parents, that might mean going swimming or trampoline, or soft play or bowling. Or maybe you prefer being outdoors hiking, going to the park, or the beach. Perhaps you need something more free, like setting up a study under the kitchen table where you can have picnics, ride your bike, or play hide and seek in the garden.
most of us know that taking the iPad away from a child and telling them to “run away and play” doesn’t work. Sometimes you need to help your kids find activities that are much more fun than playing computer games or watching YouTube!
Read more: 15 tips to get your kids playing outdoors more
2. Lead by example
We know this is difficult, but it has been difficult during a pandemic when many of us are working from home and glued to our computers from 9 to 5!
But when you’re not working, put down your phone. We may need to set limits on ourselves, not our children!
3. Encourage hobbies and sports
My kids are just getting to the stage where they join after-school clubs and have swimming lessons, tennis lessons, beaver club, football, etc.
The prices for these clubs add up quickly, so you can always make it a regular activity that you do on your own, although it’s not always possible. It’s like going swimming every Wednesday after school, or going to the park to play soccer every Thursday. If you do it on a set day, doing it weekly will feel like a non-negotiable.
4. Plan family activities
If you don’t have anything planned for the weekend, you’ll end up spending a lot of screen time on Saturday and Sunday. The idea of ”let’s just stay home and relax” doesn’t help us at all because we spend all weekends just watching TV!
That’s why we always do our best to plan some activities.
Here are some of our favorite family days out in the UK.
5. Make books exciting
I still can’t believe this works, but it does…
I take my kids to the library every few weeks and they love it. There is a small cafe where you can have tea and biscuits and choose up to 10 books each. They love picking out books and spend the next few weeks reading and looking at pictures.
The reason I can’t believe this works is that we went through a phase where we read books on the iPad via Kindle Unlimited, but they actually prefer the routine of getting a physical book and going to the library. It’s from. It’s a light-hearted after-school activity perfect for an afternoon when you don’t have anything planned.
6. No screens after bedtime
I know I said that screens shouldn’t be your enemy and that taking them away is pointless, but there’s one exception, and that’s at bedtime.
We have a strict bedtime of 7pm, but my oldest son is often not ready for bed by that time. So we tell him he can stay in his bedroom and read, write, draw, or play with Legos until he’s ready for bed. Having a TV or tablet in his room has never been an option, so he doesn’t question it.
7. Create areas where kids can draw and colour and craft
I think many of us want our children to be creative, to spend more time coloring, painting, crafting…but we.. doesn’t really create a space where it’s easy and possible.
I used to store the coloring box in an upstairs cupboard (it never came out!), but I moved it to an easily accessible cupboard next to the kitchen table and the kids always… I started using it.
Every Christmas, I ask parents to buy crafty things for their kids like paints, pens, pencils, crayons, glue, stickers, etc.
8. You don’t need to entertain kids 24/7
To limit screen time, you need to entertain your kids with an endless list of activities. In the right environment, children quickly learn to have fun.
For me, the easiest way to get my kids away from screens is to sit in their bedroom or in the garden and read a book.
My kids are still at an age where they follow me everywhere. I sit in the living room and they sit next to me and watch TV. But if I sit outside, they will follow me and play outside!
9. Use screen-free tech
You don’t have to turn your back on technology completely. In fact, there are plenty of kid-friendly technologies that can be enjoyed without screens.
One of the simplest examples is a home smart speaker like Alexa. My kids listen to audiobooks, play games, ask silly questions, play music, listen to kids’ podcasts, and (often times) play animal sounds. I use Alexa all the time.
Toniebox is also a great option. A full review of Toniebox can be found here.
I’m also a big fan of the Nintendo Switch. Even though the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a screen, it’s a fun way for the whole family to play active video games together. We often play Just Dance or Mario Party together, and it’s a fun way to stay active and play something the whole family can participate in.
10. Borrow a dog
Owning a dog is an incredibly healthy family addition. We love dogs, but we also love the fact that dogs force us all to get outside and go for walks every day.
Children know that walking the dog is a non-negotiable daily activity. Louis needs to walk the same way we brush our teeth and eat dinner.
He encourages us to get outside and exercise, even on the coldest, most miserable winter days!
How much screen time is too much screen time?
The answer to this question is completely personal, and I don’t think we should compare ourselves to anyone else or let anyone else dictate our children’s screen time. You know your child best, so it’s up to you to decide. Some screen-free families say that screen time is too much for young children, while others say they need quiet screen time to maintain their own sanity. Some parents think so!
personally, some days I spend hours staring at a screen, and other days no one touches my phone. It’s all about the weather and other activities going on and I don’t think you need to beat yourself up if you use your iPad from time to time to entertain the kids!