As a parent of a modern child or teenager, you know it's not easy for children growing up in today's media-saturated world. Although children are involved in school, friends, and activities, today's kids are never far from their cell phones, computers, TVs, tablets, or video game consoles. That can add to a lot of distractions and interference to shared family time.
The following are some suggestions to reduce the screen time of your children without generating a great deal of stress:
- Watch your own screen habits. Although your children may not seem to pay attention to anything you say or do, you are still their most important role model. So you can't tell him or her to cut back on TV time, e-mail, or texts if you're watching endless hours of television, texting while you're driving, or eating dinner with your smartphone on the table. If you set household screen time rules, then you need to follow them yourself; Schedule a Personalized Family Law Assessment With an Attorney Now!
- Remind your children to limit screen usage. Banning electronics completely in our modern age isn't realistic. However, it is important to let your children know you're paying attention to how much time they are on a screen. Sometimes you need to give them a gentle reminder like "Hey, I think you've used enough technology for now – it's time to go and do something else." Children in this day and age are born into a digital world. It's up to us to remind them that there is an unplugged world;
- Encourage activities that involve exercise or socializing. Look for activities and clubs that engage your child socially and/or athletically, so they will get out and be with other people. If you can't convince your child to join you at social events, suggest activities related to his or her interests that involve other kids in school, church groups, volunteer work, or a local athletic group, church athletic leagues or local rec leagues;
- Creating screen rules together may be more likely to get your child's buy-in if you come up with screen time rules as a family. Together you can write up a contract that outlines clear house rules with rewards and agreed-upon punishments. The following are some suggestions for rules to implement together:
- No texting during meals, either at home or at a restaurant.
- No TV during meals.
- No TV until after homework and chores are done.
- The computer stays in a public room in the home.
- No TVs in the bedroom.
- Be conscientious of age-appropriateness. What's okay for an 8-year old isn't okay for a 4-year old. Use your judgment and consult media reviews.
- Keep media out of your children's bedrooms. It is much easier to exercise control when your child is within view. So that means keeping video games, the television, and the computer in a common area where you can keep an eye on things.
Don't expect that your children will be excited and greet you with open arms regarding your attempts to reduce their screen time. Keep at it and you should see some improvements. And don't be surprised if you start reducing your own screen time usage.
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