Written by Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell
Do you feel like your child has become a zombie, constantly in front of some device? There’s still time left to get your kids outside this summer and to stop the arguing about screen time.
Why bother? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “In general, while watching television, your child is probably not doing any of the following:
- Asking questions
- Solving problems
- Being creative
- Exercising initiative
- Practicing eye-hand coordination
- Scanning (useful in reading)
- Practicing motor skills
- Thinking critically, logically, and analytically
- Practicing communication skills
- Playing interactive games with other children or adults (helpful for developing patience, self-control cooperation, sportsmanship)”
So what do we do about it? Decide on the absolute limits and then involve your kids in working out the details within those limits. Here are some points to consider:
- Amount of screen time per day (phones, computers, devices, TV, movies)
- How that time should be used - all at once? 30 minutes at a time?
- How will they keep track of their screen time (timer, check list?)
- What are the consequences if they don’t track their time or go over time?
- Do they need to play outside prior to being on the screen?
- Are there chores to complete prior to screen time?
Your kids may complain about this process. Expect them to be disappointed. Accept emotions, do not accept disrespect. If they need to cool off before they can be involved in the discussion, allow them as much screen-free time as they need to come back to the table and start the conversation again. When they are ready to take responsibility for their screen use, then the planning can begin.
- Be willing to evaluate how the plan is working after a week. Be open to making some changes – maybe their game takes about 45 minutes to play so 30-minute increments don’t really work.
- Get Real - Kids often say that they want "Down-time" in front of a screen. There is no down-time for a brain in front of a screen. Screens stimulate the brain.
- Ultimately, decide on limits that you are willing to enforce and enjoy fewer arguments for the rest of the summer.