Utilizing technologies’ positives on a daily basis can improve lives, create efficiencies and make entertaining, educating and connecting easier. There are, of course, negative aspects of technology as well. In some cases, technology has the potential to negatively affect physical and emotional health.
Many parents struggle with how to balance technology use with their kids, particularly now that it is well established in their education.
Here are 10 suggestions 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 – 30 minutes
· Go Outside – 30 minutes
· Study – 30 minutes
· Be Creative - 30 minutes
Encouraging your children to complete these activities 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. Sit down with the kids at the start of each week, allocate a certain number of hours a 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.
4. 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, 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 redeem a coupon. Put a timer on and respect the time limit.
7. 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.
8. Have the kids turn in all electronics in the evening. They must complete a list of chores and/or reading before they get them back in the morning.
9. Cut off all video games and iPads during summer days. They can still watch tv in the evening, but that’s it.
10. 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 behavior from watching their parents, so modeling how you want them to use technology is a good way to create balance. They can learn to navigate their technology-enhanced lives, if you show them what moderation looks like.
Parenting (and life) is full of ups and downs. Just remember, don't be too hard on yourself. Sometimes you’ll feel like you're absolutely nailing it and other times you’ll wonder how you managed through the day. 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 always start fresh next week.