Every time you turn around, your kids are staring at a smartphone or screen. Of course, they like playing video games, texting with friends, watching television, and surfing the internet on the computer. But that can become much lost time without interacting or participating in physical activity.
There are ways to reduce your children’s screen time. Parents need to understand the importance of setting rules and reducing screen time by limiting when children can use the computer, TV, and smartphone. One way to do this is to suggest alternative activities that you can schedule on your online calendar to reduce screen time.
Here are ways to reduce the time your children spend on technology screens and alternative activities to consider.
Time For a Family Meeting
The first step to getting everyone on board with new rules for technology is to hold a family meeting. You should explain why it is essential to establish rules for the family about tech use. This is an excellent time to note that the goal is for everyone to sit less and move more. Tech use isn’t a reward or punishment but a form of entertainment with limits. For example, young children can use a cell phone for kids that doesn’t come with the internet, social media, or games.
The idea here is to explain that these rules are intended to improve your time together. As a family, everyone must commit to limiting screen time. There may be some exceptions, such as using the computer for homework or work. That does not count against your entertainment time. But everyone in the family, including adults, must be held to the same standard.
Set Screen Time Limits and Stick to Them
A house rule must limit the amount of screen time spent on smartphones, TVs, and video games. Health experts recommend two hours a day, but you can set your own limits. Maybe it is one hour. Perhaps you decide three hours is appropriate for your family. Whatever you decide, the entire family must be on board to keep screen time down to a finite time. Schedule these times on your online calendar and ensure everyone sticks to them.
Once the rule is established, make sure you follow it. Children know when their parents are not practicing what they preach. They will follow your lead. Make sure everyone knows the penalty for breaking the rule. Decide if they must pay into a family entertainment fund or lose tech privileges.
Encourage Completing Chores for Screen Time
If your child is old enough to take advantage of screen time, they likely are old enough to handle chores. Establish a set of chores for your child around the house. Schedule the time they work on them on your online calendar and when they complete them. Performing these chores helps the family, offers an alternative to staring at a screen, and provides an opportunity to reward your child.
Consider offering them a bit more screen time if they go above and beyond with chores. But be careful. The idea here is to reduce screen time, so try not to offer ways to increase it too much.
Create Family Time for Physical Activities
A great way to reduce your family’s screen time is to find alternative physical activities. For example, you can plan family walks or visit the community pool. Start a family bowling night or an exercise challenge. Find a way to offer alternative activities to your children that will reduce their dependence on screen time.
You can track the amount of time spent on physical activities and tech use each week on your online calendar. Consider the hours spent watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer. Compare that to the time spent doing physical activities. Chances are you’ll find the screen time surpasses the time doing physical activities. If so, meet as a family to discuss ways you can increase your physical activities.
Not all physical activities must be done together, although family time is fun. Give your children credit for playing outside with friends. Perhaps your children are involved in sports at school or in the community. Count that, too. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for your time at the gym.
Make Sure Your Children Get Outdoors
An alternative to screen time can be spending more time outdoors. To encourage your child to get out more, look for ways to nurture new hobbies. For example, teach them how to plant and care for a garden. Teach them how to care for your swimming pool. Expose them to the thrill of working on cars, maybe just cleaning them or changing the oil.
You can create a schedule for these outdoor activities in your online calendar and try different things. You might help your child discover a passion that turns into a life-long career.
Engage as You Enjoy Screen Time Together
There are ways to spend family time together while watching television. Plan a movie night together, something everyone will enjoy. Make special treats for the family to ensure that time is special. If you see TV ads for unhealthy foods or promoting new personal devices, discuss those. Help your children understand the difference between junk food and healthy meals.
You can also add physical activities to your tech use. For example, create a competition with push-ups or jumping jacks during commercials. The winner picks the next movie. Inspire your children by doing stretches, yoga, or dumbbell lifts while watching TV. You can increase your family’s time with physical activities while enjoying television together.
Establish “Tech-Free” Zones in Your Home
You decide when and where your children access technology. That means you need rules preventing access to tech in certain areas of your home. For example, ensure there is no tech at the kitchen table for any meal. Meal time is when families can discuss their day and stay connected.
Keep computers and televisions out of bedrooms. This is an excellent way to ensure everyone sticks to the tech time limits. But it also helps you monitor what your children watch and browse. You can also keep smartphones out of bedrooms or require them to be surrendered before bedtime.
Provide Alternatives to Screen Time
Families can do many activities together that don’t require technology. Consider going to a park together. Attend a sporting event together. Encourage your children to try hobbies that occupy their afternoons and weekends, and schedule these activities on your online calendar.
Children can learn to appreciate hobbies at an early age. Take them to a local theater production and ask if they would consider joining a youth theater group. Sign up for an art class and take your child to see if they would enjoy learning more. Offer to pay for music lessons so they can explore learning an instrument.
Other traditional options are to consider, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, school clubs, and volunteering. They teach the value of volunteer service and plant a seed of service that your child will appreciate as an adult.
There are many ways to reduce your family’s screen time. Think of this as an opportunity to build new memories together.
Image Credit: Photo by Kampus Production; Pexels; Thank you!
Student at UC Berkeley, currently working on a degree in Electrical Engineering/Computer Sciences and Business Administration. Experienced in CSX, productivity management, and chatbot implementation.