7 Strategies to Reduce Your Kid’s Screen Time
We all know it - too much screen time for kids could easily be harmful. And if you're reading this post, it seems you're well aware of that.
But do you know just how much time your kids are spending in front of a screen?
With screens everywhere, it's become challenging to monitor your kid's screen time. And to make things even more complicated - some screen time can be educational and help your kids gain new skills.
The key is in finding balance. Here's everything you'll need to know about how to reduce screen time and encourage more screen-free activities.
Does too much screen time negatively affect your kids?
The short answer is - yes, it does. But how exactly?
Research shows that excessive screen time can lead to obesity and binge-eating disorder.
Mayo Clinic even found that letting your kid spend too much time in front of a screen is directly linked to:
- Violent outbursts
- Delay in child's language and social skill development
- Decreased attention span
- Insufficient sleep time due to blue light exposure
- Less time spent learning
- Behavioral problems
Keep in mind, your kids can definitely benefit from some screen time, so you wouldn't want to cut it out completely. For example, screen time involving music, movement, and stories can be helpful for your child's development.
But passive screen time mustn't replace screen-free activities - reading, playing, and problem-solving.
There are many ways you can introduce screen time limits, and in this post - we'll provide you with all the tips to reduce your child's screen time. It's easier than you think!
How much screen time is recommended by experts?
Knowing how much is too much - that's something you can't go on without.
The World Health Organization recommends that kids aged 5-17 should have limited screen time with a lot of physical activity mixed in. For kids aged 2-4, they recommend a maximum of 1 hour of screen time, and for even younger children they recommend no screen time at all.
Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some straightforward recommendations.
Kids under 18 months
The only case where a kid younger than 18 months should use a screen is when video-chatting. Simple as that.
Kids under 24 months
Their screen time should be severely limited to introducing kids to occasional educational content.
Kids aged 2-5 years
It's recommended to limit screen time to 1 hour per day, all while parents are co-viewing with the kids.
Kids older than 6 years
There is no set screen limits here, but be sure to place consistent limits on media use, types of media consumed, and where it's taking place.
2 types of screen time (passive vs. active)
Remember, not all screen time is inherently bad. Psychologists divide our screen time into 2 categories - passive and active. Here's how they differ.
Active screen time
This is when we learn, strain our minds, do something creative, or even video-chat with someone.
Passive screen time
This is when we don't strain our minds too much, we watch a movie, a YouTube video, or mindlessly scroll through social media apps.
Now, knowing this, you'll definitely want to keep your kids away from passive screen use as much as possible.
And here's how to do it.
How to reduce screen time for your kids
Let's explore some practical tips to reduce your child's screen time and ensure a healthier balance between the virtual and physical worlds.
Tip #1: Set time limits and don’t back down
Setting screen time limits and establishing routines go hand in hand. It's up to you, as a parent, to help your kids know what to do, when to do it, and how often.
In other words, introducing limits and routines will help you incorporate screen time into your kids' lives in a way that suits your family. For example - you might decide that your child can watch TV only between 4 and 5 pm. Or you could decide that they can play on video game consoles for one hour after lunch.
Or simply limit screen use on school days to 30 minutes per day and raise it to one hour on weekends.
Whatever your decision may be - you need to stick to it. Establishing a routine will help you minimize conflict about screen time, but there will still be some pushback from your kids.
To make this a bit easier, here's what you can do:
- Set your kid's expectations about a screen time session before they start - they need to know what they are allowed to do and for how long.
- Wisely choose your timing, so you can get kids to stop playing video games or watching TV at a natural breakpoint - like before their bath or meal time.
- Warn your kids when it's almost time to stop. If they have 10 more minutes left, it would be good to let them know.
- Help your kids wrap up their screen activities. They might be doing something creative on the computer, but you don't want them to lose their progress.
And a good tip here - if your kid is watching Netflix or using some other similar streaming service, once the episode of a show end, a new one start immediately. Your kids may not even realize that their time is up, so be sure to check if you can switch that off.
Tip #2: Remove all screens from your kids’ room
If the screens are out of your sight, you may not be able to fully monitor your child's screen use.
Especially if your kid's room has TVs, video game consoles, cell phones, computers, and other media electronic devices.
This is why you may want to keep all the electronic devices out of your child's bedroom. Of course, this may not work well for older children who are a few years from finishing high school, but instilling positive habits at a young age can work wonders long-term.
Keep in mind - this tip refers to all devices your kids may be tempted to use before they fall asleep.
Some sources may even suggest introducing tech-free zones in your house, but the most important one should be your kid's bedroom since too much screen time can negatively affect sleep.
Tip #3: Monitor what your child is playing and watching
Knowing how your child is spending time with electronic devices is extremely important. Just ask yourself - do you know what your kid is watching, what games are they playing, what kind of content they are consuming? If the answer is no - it's time to change it to "yes".
Keep an eye on what your child is doing and provide support when needed. Help your child understand what you're looking at, interpret things with them, and make sure their screen time is mostly active, not passive.
Even more importantly, this is the perfect opportunity for introducing healthy habits to your kids. Instead of spending time using social media platforms and playing games, why not teach your kid coding or other useful STEM skills?
The potential of a young child is almost incalculable - and it's up to you as parents to guide them towards their best future versions of themselves.
Tip #4: Encourage other fun activities
Watching TV and playing video games shouldn't be the only activities your kids find fun and engaging.
There are numerous non-screen activities your kid can enjoy. For example, why not encourage them to take walks, ride bikes, play sports with other children? Or simply - try to spend time with your kids doing something fun.
Here are a few fun activities your kids can do:
- Work on simple science experiments
- Enroll in a sports club (or play sports with you on a playfield or in your backyard)
- Learn a new language
- Go swimming in a pool
- Learn how to ride a bike
- Create some DIY crafts
- Build their own robots and electronic devices (this is where we come in!)
- Drawing, coloring, painting
There are so many screen-free activities, but we have to end the list somewhere. It's that simple. Kids are generally curious and finding them a new hobby is often easy. Think about what motivates them, what are they looking to get out of their daily interactions, and what kind of activities pique their interests.
In the end, it all depends on your child's age and interests. As your child grows, interests easily change. But you can massively influence their growth and guide them in the right direction.
Tip #5: Explain to your kids why you’re setting screen time rules
When you set limits to your kid's screen time, there's one thing that's certain. And that's your kid asking you "But why?"
So, when you get asked why you're setting a time limit, take your time to explain thoroughly - but in a way that's age appropriate. Of course, you won't use the same words talking to a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old.
Help your child understand that every family has their own rules and that their friend's family may have some different rules.
This conversation is crucial to reduce any emotional outbursts and power struggles later. If your child understands why you're setting a time limit, it will be much easier for them to follow these rules.
Tip #6: Invite your kid's friends to visit more often
There's almost no better way to reduce screen time than to have your kids simply play with each other. And yes, this works the other way around too. But for that to happen, you may want to talk with other parents and find out what if they'd like their kids to join in.
When your kid has friends over, the chances that they'll just whip out their phones and scroll TikTok are significantly lower. By simply inviting a few friends to come home, you'll get them to engage in an interactive, physical play.
And if the weather's fine, they could even play some sports outside and build real childhood friendships. That kind of socialization simply can't be replaced with an activity on screen.
What we need to understand is - kids tend to use their screen time to talk with their friends. They may play some video games together, chat, send videos to each other, and so on. And when you decide to reduce their screen time, they get scared that they'll become isolated from their friends.
To avoid this, your best option is to simply invite your kid's friends over to your house to play. And as long that playtime includes physical activity, you're on the right track.
Tip #7: Lead by example
Out of curiosity - what's your own screen time?
On average, adults spend 6 hours and 58 minutes every day on screen time. This includes tablets, TVs, smartphones, computers, video games, and other media use. Isn't that a bit too much?
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, this may be somewhat unavoidable. Especially if you're a remote worker who simply cannot avoid excessive screen use.
But still, you want to set a good example for your kids. What can you do?
If the first thing you do once you finish your job is to turn on the TV - your kids will notice that. And if you and your family members are spending time endlessly scrolling on social media, there's a good chance your kids will try to mimic you.
So, why not try something new yourself? Here are a few things you could do to lead by example:
- Pursue physical activity whenever possible, play sports, lift weights, go on hikes, and whatever seems more attractive than scrolling your social media feed
- Pick up a new hobby. For example, DIY robotics is a perfect hobby for both you and your kid. Luckily, we've got just what you need to start.
- Read a book instead of reading on your phone. The reasons are simple - less eyestrain, less blue light, and the smell of a good book.
- Move conversations over from video calls to a real-life environment. It's great to stay in touch with your friends and family through messaging apps, but nothing beats the good old-fashioned get-together.
Less screen time for the kids = healthier mind and body
If you're still wondering if it's worth setting a screen time limit for your kids, here's what would happen if you do.
For example, the longer toddlers and preschoolers stay away from screens, the more time they have to develop important skills. Simple no-screen activities like playing with toys or playing some imaginary games are incredibly important for kids to learn and build creativity.
Another research shows that when you monitor your older kids' tech habits (including limiting screen time and discussing their media use), there are significant social, academic, and physical changes for the better.
In this case, researchers were looking for a link between screen time and overall wellness. And guess what happened when parents monitored media use?
- Children got less exposed to media violence and negative messaging
- They could sleep more soundly
- They had a lower body mass index (BMI)
- Kids performed better at school
- Their social behavior is enhanced
- They became less aggressive
These reasons alone are enough to make you act right now. It may not be easy in the beginning, but you need to remind yourself - it's worth it.
And we wanted to know how you are dealing with your kids' screen time, So, we ran a survey - and here are the results for one of the questions.
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For kids aged 9 and older, you'll find our Wacky Robots subscription to be a perfect introduction to electronics. In this affordable subscription box, your kids will find new tools and equipment to build a new robot every single month.
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Building and coding your own DIY gaming console seems cool enough? You can do it with your kid in less than a day!
There are a ton of benefits to reducing your kid's screen time but replacing that screen time with an exciting, educational DIY project is where your kids start to flourish.
Visit our STEM gifts page and pick the most interesting project you can do with your kids. We guarantee your kids will love it!