We all know our kids are probably on their screens too much, if we are honest with ourselves. Heck, we all know we are probably on our screens too much, if we are honest with ourselves! We've all tried our best to justify the screen time our kids do get: "At least they're not doing drugs!" "At least they're not fighting!" "At least they're not making a giant mess anymore!" And, my personal favorite, "at least they're quiet"!
However, while peace and quiet are lovely, we also want to raise healthy, bright, non-addicted children. Yes, screens can be beneficial to life, but there's a certain point where learning/entertainment/relaxing morphs into drooling/glossy-eyed/zombie state. Which means we need to peel our young sleuths off their screens every so often. Let's take back some of that screen time and turn it into something to build a family on.
Here are the best tips we have for you:
Make them earn it. Instead of handing over the ipad or iphone, or letting your young ones take theirs out of their pockets at every hint of downtime, revamp your system. If your kids want to be on their devices, they need to “earn” the time. This could mean all homework is done, all chores are done (kids still do those, right?), or a certain amount of reading/musical instrument practice has been done. They will feel better having accomplished something, and you will love the motivation they will have to get their stuff done!
Set time limits. Do your kids take their phones to bed? Do your little ones find the ipad as soon as they get up? Are mealtimes a war zone of figuratively batting hands away from screens? Take back some of those downtime hours by setting time limits for all family members, adults included! And then at the end of the day, everyone turns in their devices to a central location so no one is tempted to tweet at 2 a.m. Bring back the restful nights!
Outside time = screen time. Time in nature may be a high priority for your family, especially with the research lately pointing to how little interaction kids are getting with the actual earth. If so, equate outside time to screen time. If your kids want an hour after dinner watching a show or playing video games, they will need to “put in” some time outside. Maybe it's not 1:1, but even 15 minutes running around outside will make for healthier, happier children.
Family game night. I know. This one is on you. But when you dreamed up your family so very long ago, did it really look like all family members on separate screens? Probably not. So take back a night, even once a month!, and pull out the board games. Pop some popcorn, serve soda, and then engage. You will get as much out of these nights as your kiddos. Maybe even more!
Family movie night. If you think games are labor-intensive, go for a family movie night. Pop more popcorn, serve soda. & choose something you all can enjoy together. At least you'll be staring in the same direction at the same screen, & that's a step in the right direction, right?
Introduce audio books. In the car, at home, anywhere, really. Getting lost in a book read aloud to you and your family is a really cool (even bonding!) experience. You can talk about the story as you go, and you'll be surprised at the anticipation that meets you every time you all pile into the car or collect in the living room together in the evening. If you're unsure of what to get, start with your local library for suggestions and lots of great titles. You may find you want to start an audiobook library of your very own!
Go outside. Together. As a family. Or simply kick the kids out into the wild blue yonder. You will both thank you afterwards.
Read. This may feel so foreign, I realize, to read words not on a screen. But there is just something about a real cover in your hands, the smell of pages, that has a true grounding effect. Use your local library or buy books at your local booksellers, and fill your home with stacks. Both you and your children will be inspired to pick up a good thriller or graphic novel instead of a device, at least once in awhile.
Create screen-free zones. If reducing screen time is your goal, designating areas where those beloved screens are off limits will help immensely. We recommend the kitchen table and any and all bedrooms to start with. Oh, and the bathroom, that hallowed sanctuary of extra scrolling. No phones in those places will create space for more conversation, more connection, both things you'd like a little more of, yes?
Model it. If your beloveds see you staring at your screen all day, they will do the same. End of story.
Any and all of these suggestions will help in reducing the screen time your kids engage in at home, but remember, too, to anticipate the change with grace. All of you have been entrenched in one way of living, so it may take a few days or weeks to get used to a new routine. But, in the end, you will be so glad you fought the screen battle for your kiddos!