Reduce Screen Time and Involve Your Children in Great Activities
Guest post by Claire Adams, edited by Jeff Campbell
You’re at the supermarket with your kid and you’re tired and already running late, and on top of everything your child starts throwing a tantrum. Everyone turns to look your way. People judge rather than coming to help.
So you do the only thing that you know will calm your kid down quickly – you give them your smartphone. They grab it gleefully. And since they are finally calm, you can finish your errand and be on your way.
As parents, we’re all guilty of occasionally letting our kids indulge in technology; especially during summer vacations. Instinctively we know that too much screen time is bad. We know we need to reduce screen time. But we’re often exhausted and busy with chores, work and our other children.
Plus technology is such an easily available, quick solution that we turn to it often. Look, we all do it and no one’s here to judge. But if you’ve been looking for ways to get your kid’s eyes glued away from the tablet, we have a few handy tips right here.
Wondering how much screen time is too much? Check out a previous post on Middle Class Dad called How Much is Too Much Screen Time for Your Kids?
Teach your child to love books
— Riverside College (@RiversideCPT) August 22, 2017
For babies and toddlers, screen time can be harmful and should be avoided for the first two years of their life.
However, a book is something that even the youngest of children benefit from, and the love of reading can start at a very early age.
According to the National Education Association, the following are all direct benefits from teaching your kids to read at home:
- A 12% increase in recognizing and knowing the alphabet
- 16% better at being able to count to 20
- 14% better at knowing how to write their own name
And overall they found that “Children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school.”
Read to your new-born, because they benefit from face-to-face time with their parents. Then slowly introduce picture books and teach them how to turn the pages. Books are infinitely better for children’s development than shallow and meaningless tablet games and apps.
Besides, if you teach them to love reading they’ll turn to it with joy and eagerness. And if you never allow them to become addicted, you won’t have to worry how to reduce screen time later.
Give them room to play
One of the most harmful things about technology is the way it can make us zone out and become unaware of the passage of time. We forget to move from one spot as we stare at the screen. That lack of movement has consequences on our health.
Kids need physical activity and they need to spend some time playing in the nature. They need to learn more about the world around them. Sign your child up for dance or football classes. Take frequent family picnics, and play with them as often as you can.
Run around, chase each other, just start moving and help them develop their muscles. Introduce sports days and fitness activities where you can spend some quality bonding time as a family.
Buried in work during the summer break and can’t spend enough time playing with your kids? You have the option of taking them to a trusted day care, like the Lane Cove child care centre near me. I’m sure there’s a great one in your area too.
This way your child can get just the thing they need – a balance between playtime and educational activities. Summer camps, especially outdoor camps, are also a great way to reduce screen time (or eliminate it) and get them physically active.
There are some direct correlations between outdoor play, reducing screen time and ADHD. Check out a previous Middle Class Dad post on that subject called ADHD Solutions – Play as Medication for the Mind, Body & Soul.
Show them that nature is interesting
Can your child differentiate between a daisy and a dandelion? If not, how would they know that there are things out there better than the virtual world?
Flowers, bugs, tall trees and soft grass; all of this is a source of fun and enjoyment for children. Teach them not to be afraid of nature, and let them explore it at their own pace.
Introduce them to dogs and cats, and if you can go to the countryside, take them to see other animals. A kid who learns to love and respect animals will have a kind, beautiful heart.
Be firm when you set the rules
— Maria Popova (@brainpicker) September 12, 2016
This is more of a challenge for you than your child. Whichever rules you establish, make sure your child follows through.
Why? Because one, kids need structure in their lives, and two, it makes things easier. Once you get them used to a rule and gently explain why it is in place, they’ll have an easier time adjusting.
Be firm, fair and consistent. Also make sure to not have double standards. The same rules should apply to everyone (including the parents). If a child learns that the rules only apply to some people some of the time, that teaches them to be dishonest and to simply hide poor behavior and poor choices.
Specifically for finding ways to reduce screen time, have set times and days when screen time is allowed. On the flipside, also have days and times where screen time is off-limits. Be consistent with that plan and you will minimize conflicts.
Unsure what your parenting style is or which is best? Make sure to check out the 3 Worst Parenting Styles You Should Avoid at All Costs post here on Middle Class Dad.
Don’t reduce screen time too much
To take away technology completely would mean to severely cripple your kid. We live in the kind of world where computer skills are in high demand. Being technologically illiterate can significantly hamper our kids.
So, how much should you reduce screen time? For children ages 2-5, half an hour to forty-five minutes is more than enough. For older children you can push it to an hour. Teens should have even more freedom than that.
As with much of life, the key is to find balance so that things like technology are tools that enhance our lives and not burdens.
What kind of screen time is good for our kids?
Luckily, there are a lot of apps and games that are very educational and can be used to help your child learn. You can find anything from numbers and letters to the history of the world.
The basic strategy to reduce screen time and find the right balance is;
- Review everything that you intend to show to your kids
- Don’t just leave them alone after you shove a tablet in their hands
- Watch things with them and help them navigate through the world of technology at first
- Later on you can give them some alone time.
If your child develops a passion for video games, don’t worry too much. Video games can be beneficial, so just make sure to review which ones they’re playing. Video games are very age-driven, so make sure what they play is age-appropriate. Then as we’ve discussed just make sure they aren’t spending too much time on them.
Technology isn’t the enemy. As long as you introduce your child to other forms of entertainment and make sure they get enough exercise, it can be beneficial.
And don’t worry, if you show them books and music and nature early on and create a good balance, your child will grow up happy and healthy.
Claire Adams is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can find her online writing and giving tips about lifestyle and development as a regular contributor at highstylife.com.
Want to write for Middle Class Dad too? Check out everything you need to know on my Guest Blog Page.