Lately I wrote a post about indoor activities with children, and I think it’s useful to add some tips about how to reduce screen time for children. Usually, during holidays and the cold winter period, children get very tempted by TV, computer games etc. There are many ways to become active instead: go swimming, ride bikes, go walking etc., but there are always „those“ days where our children just want to chill and watch something.
In my opinion, setting screen time limits is vital for all children (and adults!). With screen time I intend „passive consumption“, like TV or DVD. Obviously, every family has to decide how much time a child is allowed to spend in front of a screen per day. As they already have some screen time at school (starting in primary school…) or need it for their homework etc., I think it’s even more important to monitor screen time in their free time.
Here are some tips that can help you and your kids to spend less time with the screen turned on. Before starting: set up clear rules your children and yourself can keep to!
First of all, it would obviously be wise to be the positive role-model. You probably will have to limit your own screen time too. If our children see us following our own rules, they will be much more likely to do the same.
1. It can be useful to track how much time every member of the family spends in front of a TV, watches DVD’s, plays video games, and uses the computer for something other than school or work. Compared to the physical activities of every single member, you can easily realise what you need to change.
2. Set some house rules when TV or computer is off-limits. For example, never turn on the TV or use a computer, cellphone etc. while having a chat with the children or during meals. We have a clear rule about no mobiles or other electronic devices during meals, and this applies to all of us, parents and guests included.
3. Never use the TV or computer as a reward or a punishment, because it will make them even more appealing.
4. Set a clear time schedule for screen times. During holidays these screen times are sometimes a bit longer, but should never exceed. How you can recognize that your child spends too much time in front ot the screen? If your child has problems to go to bed or fall asleep at night, if it develops attention problems or anxiety, it’s time to reduce screen time.
5. Talk about what your children are watching on TV or computer. Explain how to cope with adverts. This helps them to understand the commercial pressures and to become more screen-savvy. – Get them to think about what they are watching.
6. If you think that watching TV or DVD’s is already a habit in your family, give your kids alternatives. We really are spoilt for choices: sports, hobbies, outdoor activities etc.
Do your children have a TV or computer in their bedroom? Removing them from your childrens’ rooms will reduce their consumption about 1.5 hours per day. Furthermore, having a TV or computer in their bedroom, will lead the children to spend less time with the rest of the family.
It’s important to differentiate screen time: There is the passive screen time like watching TV or DVD’s and the more active screen time, like playing games (Wii, DS, computergames etc.). Among the computergames, those requiring problem-solving and concentration can even be educational. But some of them can lead to „addiction“ and as parents we should be attentive that our children (and we as well!) don’t pass the very fine line between passion and obsession.
How much time do your children spend in front of a screen per day? And you? Do you have any more suggestions about how to reduce screen time for children or how to make it become a more productive free time?
- Children ‘spend more time watching TV than at school’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Children spend longer watching TV than in school (independent.co.uk)
- Screen Time (teacherbecoming.wordpress.com)
- Parents ‘should ban kids from watching TV until the age of three’, says child health expert (menmedia.co.uk)
- Background TV exposure may harm children’s development (csmonitor.com)
- Even TV in the Background Impacts Brain Development in Children (activistpost.com)
- Researchers Say Kids Are Exposed To ‘Startling’ Amounts Of Background TV (npr.org)
- How Technology and Gaming Affect Pre-teens and Teenagers (drkaytrotter.wordpress.com)