Managing screen time is probably one of the biggest struggles facing parents in today’s world. And there’s just not a lot of time between now and before all this technology even existed. It’s hard to know what’s right, how much is too much, and how to live with kids in this ever tech-obsessed world.
The reason why the struggle is so real is that this technology is pretty amazing. Think about when you were a kid 20 years ago. How would you react if you had a TV that you could basically hold in the palm of your hand and watch just about any show or movie or play any game whenever you felt like it?
The technology, whether you love it or hate it, is apart of our world and our kids will come to know it and use it like second-nature if they aren’t already. It’s our job to help them manage all this technology because it’s no different than sugar. Too much of it has dangerous consequences and it’s just too good for a child to be able to create safe boundaries on their own.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much
I think it’s important to talk about safe screen time before we get into managing our children’s screen time. I’m going to be really upfront here, there are many opinions on this topic. But I think we could all agree that there is a “too much” for every child.
I personally believe that this is going to look different for every single child. And you should first monitorÃ‚Â your child and his or her behaviors when spending time in front of the TV, on their tablets or phone, or playing video games.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does my child seem more active or hyper after screen time?
- Does my child seem more inactive, less motivated, or even “zoned out” after screen time?
- Does my child exhibitÃ‚Â new behaviors such as disobedience, talking back, or withdrawingÃ‚Â after screen time?
- Is my child showing a lack of interest in playing with real toys, going outside, or reading books?
- Do they have an extreme attachment to their device or phone?
Though these are common occurrences in children after consuming electronics, if you answered yes to any of these questions you may decide to make some positive changes. As these are signs that your child is having too much screen time.
Please do not feel condemned or like you’re a bad parent! I think we’re all in the same boat here. I struggle with screen time just like any other parent. It’s no different than the constant request for cake, cookies, and chips. It’s all a part of parenting.
Here’s where it gets really sticky, though. Tablets and TV are highly effective ways to keep children and toddlers busy and entertained so you can “get things done.” This is especially true for the younger children because most of them want parental participation “akaâ€œ mommy come play with me” anytime they’re playing with their real toys.
I get it… boy do I get it. The struggle is real.
But guess what? Our parents had the same exact struggle and so did their parents and their parents. Parenting hasn’t changed and neither have children. The only thing that’s changed is that we found a perfect way to keep everyone happy and quiet. Win-win, right?
Unfortunately, there’s a cost and our kids are the ones paying the highest price.
Here’s a powerful video on what’s being called Digital-Dementia. And it’s affecting all of us and our kids will find this as a way of life unless we step in and change this during their most important formative years.
There are serious consequences to exposing our children to too much screen time. I think we can all agree that we struggle with screen addiction as adults.
The good news is, we have the power to protect our children from these consequences and train their brains to think for themselves instead of reaching for their electronic devices.
If you’re not sure about what to do with Social Media… read this. I’ve never allowed my children to have Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Musical.ly account. It’s not necessary and it’s simply too risky to open that door. We need to let our kids be kids.
How to Make Changes the Simple Way
Our kids are understandably obsessed with all things technology. And I believe banning them or shaming them for appreciating it is a mistake. Technology is a way of life for this generation and something they’ll need to master. However, it was never intended to be used as a drug that is dulling their life.
My children are masters at soaking up technology from my oldest on her iphone all the way down to my youngest watching YouTubeKids on the ipad. But I knew I had a problem because after really observing my kids, I was answering yes to all of the previously asked questions.
I decided to make some changes, but I didn’t let my kids know I was making them. That just opens the door to power-struggles. I started limiting their screen time little by little and stayed consistent. I got resistance for sure, but it became less and less over time.
Here’s where the work came in… I needed to program my kids to choose their toys, activities, and books over technology. It was slow at first but they started acting more like kids who grew up in 1985 who only had those things. Lol
I wanted my children to go back to using their brains and their creativity to think and have fun on their own. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids!
Our Kids Need Alternatives
Another thing our children need is alternatives to electronics. We can’t expect them to just sit around all day with nothing to do. And going outside to play like many of us did isn’t always possible. We live in a much different world today. If we go outside… we all go outside as a family. And that’s not always possible.
My biggest suggestion is to stop buying expensive toys that light up, play music, or move around the room. These toys are just priming children to crave electronics. To have something “entertain” them. In my opinion, they are simply a waste of your money.
Instead, invest in buying toys that require your child to do something, instead of the toy. They are also much less expensive! For years, I’ve only been buying things that inspire my kids to make, create, imagine, manipulate, move, or construct something. And though sometimes it’s more work for me, I’ve seen dramatic differences in my children.
When presented with these options, they are more engaged, creative, and feel more accomplished. And that’s a huge win in my book!
The Best Screen-Free Activities and Toys
My first choice for something that will keep my kids happy and active is through an activity-based subscription. They are activity-based boxes that focus on learning a new skill each month. They teach kids about science, their environment, and technology from the side of building technology!
I actually have to force them to space out the activities throughout the month and there’s a Crate for all of my kids’ ages which is pretty cool!
Another great option is Little Passports. It focuses on taking kids on a new adventure around the world every month teaching them about new places, people, foods, and anything else exciting.
And the prices of these subscriptions are so affordable and much cheaper than my expensive data plan!
Here are some other great examples of toys that’ll have your kids dropping their electronics!
- Creative Kids FlakesÂ These are so fun!
- Play dough for big kids.Â The only play dough you should be using.
- Brain Flakes for Toddlers
- Junk Drawer Physics
I love books and this book subscription company loves books too. In fact, when they send your child’s books they come individually wrapped like a gift. Isn’t that cool! Here’s my son opening his latest books. He feels so special every time his box comes in the mail. They also have chapter books for older kids too!
If you’re looking for screen-free activities for kids of all ages… check out this list!
How to Create Boundaries
Now it’s time to talk screen time limits. I find that slowly limiting their screen time, if it’s currently a lot, is the best way to start. Don’t necessarily tell them what you’re doing. Just roll the time back little by little and provide them those alternatives we talked about.
Once you see them adjusting to the new limited times, decide how much time you want to designate for screen time every day. It could be 30 minutes a day or one hour. You decide.
Then have a family meeting to share the new changes. If you’ve done a good job weening them slowly and giving them fun activities to do off-screen you’ll be surprised at how painless this process can be. Depending on your child and how much time they’ve been allowed to have previously, going slow is really important.
Science shows how our brains light up in front of electronics in the same way as a drug addict does when shown drugs. (source) Banning them cold-turkey doesn’t help anyone and increases the struggle and the odds of failure.
Once you decide on a time, post it in a public area and keep it strictly enforced. You may decide to have different times in the summer and other school breaks than you would during the school year. But that’s totally up to you.
And remember, this process takes work and will require you to be more present with your children… and that’s a really good thing. You are the parent and must stay consistent no matter how much your child begs, pleads, or complains. They will eventually seek out new ways to entertain themselves and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at their progress.
How do you manage your child’s screen time? Share your best tips in the comments below!