Technology is part of our everyday - creating efficiencies, providing easier lives, giving us access to things we never had access to before, entertaining, educating, connecting. But there is of course the negative aspect of technology. The part that is seeing more people becoming less active, less creative, less social, less resilient.
Because of this conflict, many parents struggle with how to balance technology use, particularly now that it is well entrenched in their education.
Here are 12 suggestiosn on how to limit screen time for kids – (disclaimer: some of these do still use technology)
1. Create a list of activities to be completed before screen time: Read for 30 minutes, outside for 45 minutes, learning for 30 minutes, and creative for 30 minutes. Encouraging your children to do these things before screen time not only helps develop key learning, creative and active skills, you’ll also find that the desire for screen time may reduce.
2. Using an app like Brili, you can give each child a routine of tasks to complete (say 3 tasks per day). When they have done the item in their routine, they swipe left. They can earn screen time and other rewards.
3. Make Screen Time Active Time. Using the body as the controller, Springfree featuring tgoma allows kids to actively jump around while they try to stomp aliens and squish fruit. It takes their screen time outside and makes it active giving kids all the benefits of physical activity.
4. Commit to letting them use screens on weekends only – for the whole year! The other five days they can create, play outside write, read, or rest.
5. Sit down with the kids at the start of each week, allocate a certain number of hours for the week that they are allowed screen time and have them schedule their screen hours for the coming week. If they choose to use up their hours in the first day, that’s it. No passes.
6. Another approach could be to use an app like DinnerTime that lets you set limits on your child’s device from your phone. You can set different limits for weekdays vs. weekends and schedule specific break times. You can select which apps are part of the time limit and which are exempt (for example you might be happy for them to listen to music as much as they want, do a daily math challenge or meditate – so these apps don’t use any of the scheduled time). Or Screentime app (which is much better for Android devices). You can limit time but also pick and choose which apps are accessible. You can shut down games during the day or for bedtime or after they have played for X amount of time. They send a daily report via email so you can see what apps your kids are using.
7. Turn Screen Time into Family Time. Having a family movie night can be a great way to spend time together. It can also be fun to have a video game play-off with your kids. Especially if your kids already play video games, playing together in cooperative mode, or versing one another, can be a fun way to bond and turn gaming into a social, family activity.
8. You could go the coupon route. Create four half-hour coupons that limit the screen time to a max of two hours. Chores, learning, play comes first for at least an hour, then they can ask to redeem a coupon. Put a timer on and respect the time limit.
9. Create a bingo game with squares like: play with blocks/legos, do a good deed, play outside, draw a picture, etc. Each bingo equals 30 min screen time.
10. Have the kids turn in electronics in the evening and they need to complete a list of chores and reading before they get them back in the morning.
11. Cut off all video games and iPads during the summer. They can still watch tv in the evening but that’s it.
12. If you have a savvy tech friend, you can buy a router that can be configured to control WIFI access on different devices in the house. WIFI can be enabled or disabled, and you can schedule the times through the router’s webpage.
Important: Be a Role Model
As digital adults we are frequently on devices at home. It’s hard to limit screen time for kids when you may need to be on a device for work, to shop or just for entertainment purposes. Kids learn behaviour from watching their parents so modelling how you want them to use technology is a good way to create balance. They will have better technology habits if you help show them what moderation looks like while they learn to navigate their technology-enhanced life.
And just remember, like all things parenting, don't be too hard on yourself. Parenting (and life) is full of ups and downs. Sometimes you feel like you're absolutely nailing it and other times you wonder how you managed to get out of the house (if you, did in fact, get out of the house! Find what works for you and if, for some reason, there is a week where your kids are on devices more than they're not, then so be it. You can alwas start afresh next week.