Parents have heard the warnings about too much screen time for their kids, perhaps one time too many. However, most of the warnings do not come with instructions. In today’s world, suddenly taking away screen time from kids can end in World War Three. So how do you limit how often they watch TV and play on phones/tablets? There are ways to do it without a battle.
Firstly, it is important to realise that times have changed. It is simply not realistic to live a life where your children are not exposed to technology. In actual fact, this may leave them stranded behind in a world that thrives on computers and phones. So letting your child watch appropriate TV and play child-friendly tablet games is okay! What you need to focus on is that they don’t spend all their time doing it.
Make screen time a treat. If your children see screen time as a reward, it is easier to control how much they are exposed to it. Perhaps try letting them watch one show if they eat their veggies, or help pick up their toys. It is important to keep this rule age-appropriate when explaining it to your young toddler.
Remove devices from the bedrooms. This rule ensures that technology is only used in the communal living areas. Just like you wouldn’t let your child eat dinner alone in their bedroom, let them know that TV and phones/tablets can only be watched in the lounge. This automatically takes away the habit of a child falling asleep while watching a screen, and gives them less of a chance to watch TV. It also lets you monitor what they are watching.
Have family movie nights. Once a week put a family movie on (the old Disney movies are always classics) and sit with your child and watch. This way, your child is having the benefit of spending time with you and you are also overseeing what they are watching. This emphasizes that screen time is a treat.
Acknowledge your own screen habits. Sometimes you have to practice what you preach. Putting your phone down, or pausing Netflix, to sit down and play with your child shows them that there are more important – and fun – things to do with your time than staring at a screen. We know it may be hard to break the habit, but it will teach your children to follow your lead.
If your child is going to have their screen time, try making it educational. There are some fantastic apps for all ages that help your child learn new things, as well as cartoon shows that teach things like hygiene, eating correctly and manners. If your child is going to watch, let it at least benefit both of you.
Habits are harder to break than to set. If your little one is young enough, try keeping the screens away from them from the start. As they get older you can introduce the concept to them slowly and they will be less likely to rely on a screen.
Toptots Early Learning SA