For better or for worse, screens are a massive part of everyday life. And for all the good that comes from screens – education, fun, distraction, freeing up five minutes so you can sit on the toilet in peace – the majority of parents don’t want their kids glued to a screen all day long.
Given the sheer volume and variety of screens available nowadays – tablets, phones, computers, consoles, TVs, clocks, watches, ‘home hubs’ – trying to manage your kids’ screen time can feel like a losing battle. But, with a few tricks up your sleeve, it’s entirely doable.
Of course, this advice varies dramatically depending on how old your kids are (teenagers will be a much tougher gig than toddlers), but some of the tactics below can be applied to all ages.
1.Detox and reset
This one won’t be for everyone, and definitely takes some mettle, but hear us out. If you think the balance of screen time your kid gets has gone completely off-kilter, and they’re using them as much and as often as they like, you might want to think about outlawing all screens for a full week (or two, if you’re feeling bold).
The goal here is to try and reset the relationship your kid has with screens. When you reintroduce screens after the break, do it only in short bursts. Say, for 30-60 minutes a night, straight after school for example. You want to reintroduce screens as a privilege, not a right. And hopefully, your kid will have found new ways to busy themselves over the no-screen period. (‘Hopefully’ being the operative word here).
2.Set the example
If you spend every night gazing into your phone or television, it’s pretty likely that your kids will mirror that behaviour. By setting an example with your screen time you’ll be sending a strong message to them about what is and isn’t normal. If you’re struggling to manage your own screen time – and there’s no shame in that, these things are designed to be addictive! – you could consider buying a gadget lock box, and encouraging your family to put all phones in it at a certain time each day (from 6pm until bedtime, for example).
3.Routine, routine, routine
It can be difficult, at first, to establish new routines when it comes to technology, but once you have something locked in and everyone’s subscribed to it, you’ll never have to worry about screen time again. If your kids know they get the PS4 for two hours on Saturday morning, then they’ll stop nagging you for it during the week. Likewise, if they know they can watch one episode of their favourite show every night, you won’t have to deal with them begging you to watch it every day. And if you’re smart-home inclined, just yell out to Alexa/Google/Siri to set a timer so you don’t forget when they’ve hit their quota.
4.No screens in the bedroom
A simple, blanket rule for all households: if every family member agrees to keep their phones, tablets and computers in the kitchen or living room every night, and every family member sticks to this rule, you won’t need to worry about your kids getting excess screen time after you’ve gone to bed. And if you’re worried about the kids sneaking out of their rooms and grabbing their gadgets, we’re already talked about lock boxes…
5.Reward good behaviour
Read a book for an hour, get 30 minutes of screen time. Do the dishes, get 45 minutes of screen time. Keep your bedroom tidy for a whole week, get an hour of screen time. You get the idea. You can really go to town on this one, if your kids are old enough, by drawing up a chore roster and assigning different allotments of screen time to different tasks. You might think that seems like too much effort, but when your kids are fighting over who’s going to mop the floor, you’ll realise it was all worth it.
Looking for some more ways to get the kids off their phones this summer. Check out our blog here!