Great challenge, isn’t it?
Why reducing screen time is important?
Screen time is a growing concern for many parents and educators. As a result, there are many resources available to help you reduce your child’s screen time. While it is important to teach children healthy habits from an early age, it can be difficult knowing where to start.
The first step is to identify what you want to change and why. Do you want to reduce screen time because it’s interfering with your child’s learning? Or maybe they are spending too much time on their devices? Is there another reason?
As guidance, according to various studies, before the age of 2, children should not have any screen time at all. It is important to allow them to develop a strong relationship with their caregivers and learn how to interact with people in real life.
After the age of 2, parents should limit screen time to no more than one hour per day. This includes TV, tablets, smartphones, and computers.
Parents should also try to limit advertising exposure by watching only shows that don’t have commercials or that have limited ads during commercial breaks.
How to reduce screen time?
Once you have identified the problem, consider how much screen time your child actually has in a week and where this fits into their day. The best way to reduce screen time is to set limits and stick to them. You may want to start by setting a specific time for your child to go online, then gradually reducing it over time. This way, they will learn what is expected of them as well as how important it is for them to follow through with these expectations.
I know very well that for parents if they need to work when their kids are with them, it is pretty tempting to let them watch TV (or play on smartphones, tablets, or the computer) to ensure they stay calm and let Mom and Dad work.
I experienced it myself too during Covid lockdowns. It was really demanding! But apparently, for us screen time worked controversy… more screen time made my Daughter more and more anxious and she started to demand cartoons to watch all the time instead of playing by herself, coloring, or crafting something… that otherwise, she enjoys very much!
So I took my own advice and set the rules: no screen time at all.
Was that challenging?
Veeeery challenging. But we managed to survive the first few days and she started to enjoy her regular activities again, and even more.
One key success, factor was that all the family agreed that there is no screen time for her anywhere. So she accepted it and went on without any screen time for more than 9 months…
Then we started to let her watch 10-20 minutes a day. But honestly, I do not feel that we would need more! There are so many things we do together and what she does with her friends or on her own, so it is even hard sometimes to find an available time spot for watching a movie 😅
So how to reduce screen time?
Set rules and boundaries: It is important to set clear rules and boundaries with your children regarding screen time, video games, television viewing, etc. As parents, it can be difficult to enforce these rules, but by setting them up in advance they will be easier to follow when they need to be enforced.
What are great alternatives to screen time?
There are so many great alternatives to screen time! What I experienced is that if you let your kids get bored a bit, they will start creating their own games to play and find so many creative ideas.
You just need to wait some time and survive their whining 😅
Alternatively – and to shorten the whining time, you can also propose some activities that you can get engaged in together. It is also great for family bonding 😊
1. Spend time outdoors together exploring nature, going on walks, or playing games in the park.
Do you know what I like most about big walks? It gives us time for big talks! These times at least I do not feel the need to pack or organize something at home. 😆
We are just walking and talking. Noticing the leaves falling, funny dogs, and whatever interesting things appear. Walks do not need to be in special places. What is important is to spend that time fully focusing on each other.
Or alternatively walks alone or some outdoor games can also be beneficial. It can help with clearing your mind and reducing stress too!😊
2. Learn something new together with your kids, or encourage them to take up a new hobby or craft like painting, drawing, knitting, or woodworking.
Learning something new together can teach you and your kids many things about each other. And having a common hobby is also a great way to strengthen family bonds.
But it is also a great option to encourage them to find a hobby that they are interested in. What they learn will provide them new insights and broaden their horizons!
3. Read a book or listen to an audiobook.
Reading is sooo relaxing. You can either encourage your kids to read a great book and then discuss the most interesting parts… Or read together if they are younger.
Audiobooks can also be good alternatives. It is a bit like cheating with screen time, as the kids are technically listening to a story told by someone… but as they are not watching a screen, they still can draw or play while listening to an audiobook.
4. Have a game night with family and friends.
Invite over some friends, or just grab your favorite board game from the shelf and start playing!
Puzzles can be a great alternative too! Get a big 1000+ pieces puzzle and spend some nights putting it together!
5. Exercise or do some yoga.
Daily exercise is really important for all ages. According to my experiences, for the younger ones even more – especially if you want to guard somehow the family peace as well 😅
Try to find at least 30 minutes a day for your kids to exercise – if you can do it together, it is even better!
6. Cook or bake something nice.
My Daughter loves baking 😊 If you can accept that there will definitely be a mess in the kitchen, it is such a great and relaxing program that you can do together! Older kids might also prepare some meals alone – maybe with a bit of supervision.
7. Build a blanket fort.
When the weather is not nice, you can also build a blanket fort! It is a fun and creative way to spend time indoors!
To get started, you’ll need a few flat sheets, some chairs, a couch, and some clips or tape. Start by draping two sheets over the chairs, the couch, or any other furniture you have, then use the clips or tape to secure the sheets in place. Once you have the base of your fort set up, you can add more sheets or blankets to create walls and windows. To make openings in the fort, use string or ribbon to tie the sheets together. Then, get creative and add pillows, stuffed animals, and other decorations to make your fort extra cozy. Have fun!
No matter what you and your kids choose to do, the important thing is to find activities that they enjoy and that help them to relax and stay engaged. Do not forget to remind yourself as well, and put your phone and devices down when it is family time!
Everyone has the potential to be creative if they want to and only need to be willing to put in a little effort. Just start by switching off your devices, going for a walk together, and letting your next family adventures start!