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6 Ways to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Amber Brandt  |  August 17, 2020

Over the past few months, screens and devices have played a critical role in helping children complete their schoolwork, helping parents get work done from home, and keeping families entertained during the endless hours of quarantine – but balance is important.

As reported by the CDC, “According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 now spend, on average, a whopping 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day, 4.5 of which are spent watching TV. Over a year, that adds up to 114 full days watching a screen for fun” (and that was before Covid-19!).

Childhood addiction to television and technology has grown exponentially over the past decade and has been linked to several unfortunate results:

  • Higher risk of childhood obesity
  • Higher likelihood of displaying aggressive or risky behaviors as they grow older
  • Less energy and greater difficulty in school
  • Experiencing greater exposure to commercials and propaganda

So now that screen time has become a bit of a beast for many American families, what can you do to reasonably help your child rein it in?

  1. Talk to your kids about screen use. Established patterns or habits of any kind are hard to change – but open dialogue with your kids about needing to keep screen time in check can help. A 2016 survey from Chatelaine revealed that “screen time” was the number one cause of mom guilt in mothers aged 35-45. It simply isn’t helpful to beat yourself up about how much time your kids spend on devices – but beginning the conversation is.
  2. Create a schedule. One of the best ways you can manage your child’s expectation about screen time is to design a set schedule for each day. If it helps to set timers to help enforce the limits, go for it. Routine is beneficial for most children and it can help them mentally prepare for shifting over to a new activity when TV time is up.
  3. Track their time digitally. Did you know there are a bunch of free apps that can help you keep track of how much time they’re spending on their device? Bark, Qustodio, and Mobicip are the most popular.
  4. Be a good role model. One of the best ways for your kids to learn what is reasonable is to make sure you’re demonstrating healthy electronic use first. Set limits around when you’ll answer emails, scroll through social media, or read your favorite online columns. Save binge-watching for after they’re in bed.
  5. Build boundaries. It’s important to set aside times when the family is expected to “unplug.” For example, you may create a rule for no devices at the dinner table or designate game or craft nights where you complete a fun activity together without devices.
  6. Make their bedroom a screen-free zone. Most experts agree it’s most difficult to monitor your child’s screen intake if it’s allowed their bedroom – plus it can interfere with their sleep. It’s safest for everyone if you keep tabs on the amount of time they’re spending and the sites they’re visiting online.